The Champions League saw Roberto Di Matteo rise to greatness as a football manager. 

However, just six months later, it has also helped him fall from grace.

After guiding Chelsea to an unlikely Champions League title, Roberto Di Matteo was fired on Wednesday with the team on the brink of becoming the first defending champions eliminated from the group stage.

Former Liverpool and Inter Milan coach Rafael Benitez has been appointed interim manager until the end of the season, the club said in a statement later on Wednesday.

The Spaniard becomes the ninth manager under Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

Many clubs would accept a mere mortal being in charge of their club but not Abramovich - who is known for having limited patience with his managers. 

Di Matteo, who was hired on a permanent basis in June, was dismissed a day after a 3-0 loss to Juventus in Turin left Chelsea's title defence in tatters.

Chelsea are also struggling in the Premier League, having picked up just two points from their last four games to fall to third place.

"The team's recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season,'' Chelsea said in a statement.

Chelsea were in disarray when Di Matteo, then an assistant coach, took over from the fired Andre Villas-Boas in March, initially on a temporary basis.

The Italian brought together squabbling factions within the squad and led the team first to the FA Cup title and then the Champions League, beating Barcelona in the semifinals and then Bayern Munich in the final.

Di Matteo, with his typical coolness, was also praised for the way he handled a racism case involving John Terry that engulfed the club. Chelsea were recently in the middle of another racism incident, having accused a Premier League referee of abusing one of its players.

Source: AP