Roberto Di Matteo
Di Matteo is in contention to succeed Villas-Boas as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has realised the 41-year-old's impact on the team

Roberto Di Matteo stepped into the breach at Stamford Bridge fully aware of the volatility that characterises one of the most demanding managerial posts in European football. There are few clubs and owners who are more exacting of their managers and their quest for success.

Like Inter Milan, whose sacking of Claudio Ranieri, and Real Madrid, whose unjust dismissal of multiple title-winning coach Vicente del Bosque and Fabio Capello (the latter twice, each time after winning the league), Roman Abramovich wants to score goals, win games and win trophies, now.

To some extent, perhaps, Chelsea have been spoilt by the success they enjoyed with Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho at the helm. The "Special One", as he called himself, won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06, as well as the FA Cup in 2006, the League Cup in 2004 and 2006 and the Community Shield in 2005. Since then, the Blues have won the league just once (in 2009/10 under Carlo Ancelotti; they finished second in 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2010/11) and the FA Cup in 2008 and 2009 - three trophies in six years - certainly not good enough for Abramovich, who went through six managers after Mourinho left.

The most recent to feel Abramovich's wrath was Mourinho's compatriot, Andre Villas-Boas who lasted only eight months. His replacement, Italian Roberto Di Matteo, however, seems to be enjoying a happier (read as "because he is winning games") time at the helm.

According to a report in The Sun, Di Matteo has come out and set ambitious goals for himself and the club, before they begin to adjudge the season (or at least his tenure) a success.

"I'm working my socks off to help this team become successful. But so far we have not proved anything and we have not achieved anything. The players have done extremely well to turn things around but it will only be a successful season if we finish in the top four and win a trophy. We have to ensure we finish well to guarantee Champions League football for next season. That's the big target," the 41 year old former Chelsea player said.

Despite Di Matteo's caution, it cannot be denied he has played an instrumental role in reviving the club's season and injecting confidence and belief into the players, particularly the senior members of the squad, with whom it was reported Villas-Boas fell out. In fact, a BBC report has his former team mate, Norwegian forward Tore Andre Flo, calling for Di Matteo to be recognised as the fans' choice to be made Chelsea manager on a permanent basis.

"The supporters would like it," Flo said, adding, "I think he would take the job. I think also that a lot of people would like him to do that. It would be very welcome among the fans."

The question whether Di Matteo will be given the job for next year as well will depend on precisely the same target he himself has outlined - a top-four finish to ensure Champions League football next season. The FA Cup will be welcome but Abramovich will be more concerned about the possibility of missing the Champions League and the revenue it brings.

The Champions League, it is no secret, is Abramovich's Holy Grail. The Blues, despite having never won the tournament, have an impressive pedigree in the tournament, having reached the semi-finals more often than not in recent times and the finals, once, in 2007/08.

The fact that Di Matteo has guided the club into the last four, for the first time since the 2008/09 season, is another point in his favour. The fact the club came through after overturning a 1-3 deficit against Napoli, in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie, and beat Benfica, both home and away, to set up a clash with defending champions Barcelona is another.

There may not be too many people who think the Blues can beat the Catalans; Mourinho certainly does not. However, should Chelsea somehow manage to scrape past, the one-off game with either Real Madrid (led by Mourinho) or Bayern Munich is one in which anything can happen.

It would be a remarkable end to a turbulent season and the absolutely best reason Di Matteo can give his boss to retain his services, if, in the space of a few months, he managed to win the one trophy that Mourinho himself could not win for Stamford Bridge.

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