Antonio Conte is on the cusp of being dismissed by Chelsea following his side’s 4-1 thrashing to Watford on Monday.
The Italian’s future had been under the microscope following a period of lacklustre form – which includes three wins, four draws and three losses since the turn of the year.
Here, we take a look at four replacements should Conte leave Stamford Bridge with the Blues way off the pace in 4th spot.
The front-runner for the Chelsea job.
The former Barcelona boss has been out of work since taking a sabbatical from the game after leaving the Camp Nou last May.
The Spaniard departed the club after three years, which included one Champions League title as well as two La Liga and Copa del Rey doubles.
If a new manager was required before the season’s end it is doubtful that Enrique would take the job, however, a summer approach could be possible.
The Dutchman has enjoyed two interim spells in charge at the club and would be the ideal option if Conte is sacked mid-season.
Hiddink first stepped in during the 2008/2009 season after Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked – winning the FA Cup, before returning to the club in 2015 following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho.
At 71, Hiddink has buckets of experience in management and is clearly a trusted figure for club owner Roman Abramovich.
A return to Stamford Bridge is surely the perfect short-term fix, before hierarchy at the west London club bid for a marquee boss during the summer.
One of the favourites to become the next Chelsea manager on the back of a recent report in Corriere dello Sport which suggested the club have already agreed a deal in principle for his services.
The 50-year-old did well to sustain Conte’s success at Juventus – securing three Serie A titles and reaching two Champions League finals.
A new challenge surely awaits Allegri after a trophy-laden stint in Torino, but could it be as Italy’s national manager rather than in the Premier League.
Football has been waiting for the Cherries boss to rise up the managerial ladder, and perhaps this could be his chance to showcase his talents if an approach came from the Blues.
Bournemouth’s playing style and incredible journey has earned him plenty of plaudits, but the only negative is he is yet to gain experience at a club who are challenging for trophies.
And with Abramovich showing a lack of patience with his managers for over a decade, the 40-year-old would be more suitable to a mid-table outfit where he may be afforded time to put structures in place.
The Blues were thrashed 4-1 at Watford on Monday night as pressure on Conte’s position intensified.
Eden Hazard looked to have rescued a point for the visitors, who had Tiemoue Bakayoko sent off in the first half, after Troy Deeney had put Watford ahead from the penalty spot.
But the Hornets scored three in the last six minutes to wrap up a comprehensive victory and leave Conte’s future in the balance.
Some bookmakers have suspended betting on the Italian being sacked as Chelsea sit 19 points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester City and one one point clear of Tottenham in fifth.
The manner of defeat at Vicarage Road is bad enough in isolation but, coupled with the fact Bournemouth won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge last week, there is clearly an issue with the form of the reigning champions.
But Azpilicueta declared after the game that the players were still fighting for their manager.
Asked if he felt like the players were letting Conte down, the Spain international replied: “No. I think if you see the training sessions, we all fight hard.
“We are the first to be disappointed with the way the last two games went. That’s really hard. We are getting penalised in the bad moments we are having in the game.
“It’s not a long period, but in this league, which is so tough, you get punished as soon as you drop a bit. We are here altogether. We are all disappointed with the result.
“I know that there has been speculation all the time in the five to six years I have been here. As a player, what I want is to come back to the training pitch as soon as possible, to work hard and to get into Monday’s game, to get the three points and to get our confidence back.”
By the time Chelsea kick off at home to West Brom next Monday they could be outside the top four – something Azpilicueta admits would be a bitter pill to swallow.
“It will be difficult if that happens because we were in a very good position – we were fighting for second,” he added.
“But after two defeats we have dropped. The gap (to the teams behind) is getting closer and closer.
“We have to know that on Monday we might start out of the top four but we have it in our hands to get back into it.”
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 5, 2018
After Hazard’s sublime equaliser it appeared as though Chelsea could even leave Hertfordshire with all three points – only for Watford to respond in scintillating fashion.
Daryl Janmaat scored a well-taken individual effort to restore their lead before Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra sealed the win as new head coach Javi Gracia oversaw victory in his first game at Vicarage Road.
“It is a massive win,” Janmaat told the club’s official website. “We needed three points and we did it, we played a great game.
“We knew they were a bit under pressure so we wanted to get on them quick and as soon as possible at the start of the game.
“I think we did well, we pressed them really well. We still had the belief we could win because we had a lot of energy, more than them, and that was the key today.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Eight down, more to come. The Premier League managerial axe is sharpened and ready to be wielded again, with pressure mounting on bosses for clubs at both ends of the table.
Watford’s humiliation of Chelsea has ramped up talk of Antonio Conte‘s potential demise, while Everton’s wretched run after their 5-1 defeat to Arsenal has murmurings of Sam Allardyce being replaced at Goodison Park.
Here, we look at the Premier League sack race and examine who is likely to be next for the axe.
Chelsea – 4th
Chances of being axed – 4/5
Possible replacements – Luis Enrique, Guus Hiddink, Massimiliano Allegri
Within the next four weeks, Chelsea travel to Manchester United and host Manchester City, while the two legs of their Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona sandwich this testing month.
You can view Conte’s situation two ways, either it’s an opportunity for one last stand or the ideal time to move on and bring fresh impetus at a crucial stage of the season.
Former Barcelona boss Enrique has been officially out of a job since the end pf 2016/17 and is the leading candidate to replace the Italian. Appears a matter of when, not if.
Southampton – 15th
Chances of being axed – 3/5
Possible replacements – Marco Silva, Eddie Howe, Brendan Rodgers
Stale and without style, Pellegrino was supposed to bring zest after the rigidity of Claude Puel. But the air has quickly escaped the balloon and left in its wake a flat mess.
The recent 3-2 victory over West Brom was their first Premier League win in 14 games and yet despite the dire run of form, there are definitely three teams more likely to be relegated.
Goals have been hard to come by and the Virgil van Dijk-debacle was an unwanted distraction which can count as mitigating circumstances. Perhaps this season is a reality check.
Newcastle – 16th
Chances of being axed – 2/5
Possible replacements – Thomas Tuchel, Slaven Bilic, Martin O’Neil,
Transfer window deficiencies act as a natural defence for Benitez, but the usually pragmatic boss has been unable to organise protection for his own team.
Granted, takeover talk has undermined their season but sitting precariously above the bottom three has increased the pressure on the Spanish boss.
With Man United, Tottenham and Liverpool all to come in their next five league games, the heat is truly on but his popularity at St James’ Park cools any exit talk.
Everton – 10th
Chances of being axed – 4/5
Possible replacements – Marco Silva, Paulo Fonseca, Eddie Howe
Outclassed and embarrassed by Arsenal, the Toffees’s recent run has left a sour taste having registered one win in their last eight league games.
The switch to three at back at Emirates Stadium was a disaster and the buffer from the drop zone is eroding with each game.
Ultimately, Allardyce was brought in to replace Ronald Koeman to steady the ship but if they start sinking again, free agent Marco Silva is a known target and his availability could spark another switch.