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Benitez faces baptism of fire

Alex Ferguson with wife Cathy. during the unveling of a statue of the Manchester United manager, at Old Trafford

London: Interim manager Rafael Benitez has little time to dust off his Premier League suit and tie and start plotting how to drag Chelsea out of their malaise with leaders Manchester City visiting Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The Spaniard, who guided Liverpool to European glory in 2005 and another Champions League final two years later before leaving in 2010, was appointed until the end of the season after Roberto Di Matteo was sacked on Wednesday.

Chelsea’s new man must quickly solve their defensive problems that have seen 21 goals conceded in 10 games in all competitions. Chelsea are also without a win in four league games.

Benitez will be reunited with Spain striker Fernando Torres, who he signed for Liverpool from Atletico Madrid in 2007.

Torres has often struggled to live up to his $79.67 million price tag since moving to the capital last year and was dropped to the bench against Juve.

After a bright start, Chelsea have slipped to third and champions City, buoyed by reaching the Premier League summit last weekend, should be ready to take advantage.

City exited the Champions League at the group stage for the second season running on Wednesday after a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid, but manager Roberto Mancini believes his side are starting to hit their stride.

“We can do better, but I hope we are starting to find the form of last season — we started to change things a few games ago and it seems to be paying off,” Mancini said before the Real game.

City came from behind to beat 10-man Chelsea in the season curtain raiser, the Community Shield, in August.

With Di Matteo becoming the first managerial casualty of the season in the Premier League, it might not be too long for another to depart.

Mark Hughes has been sacked as Queens Park Rangers manager with Harry Redknapp taking over.

Redknapp will travel with QPR to Saturday’s Premier League match away to Manchester United after chairman Tony Fernandes finally decided to make a change.

Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson’s glittering reign as United manager was celebrated when his wife Cathy unveiled a bronze statue of the Scot outside Old Trafford on Friday.

The 2.7 metre statue was revealed at a ceremony attended by the current United squad and many of the greats who have worked under the long-serving Ferguson such as Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Peter Schmeichel.

Artist Philip Jackson, who was also responsible for another Old Trafford statue portraying former manager Matt Busby as well as the United Trinity piece featuring Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, resisted the temptation to capture Ferguson berating a referee, chewing gum or looking at his watch.

(Agencies)