Chelsea are ready to launch a January offer for Brazil international midfielder Paulinho after Oriol Romeu was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury, according to The Times.

Rafa Benitez is prepared to sanction a move to bring Paulinho to Stamford Bridge, but faces competition from Manchester City. The European champions have brought scouts along with them to the Club World Cup, and will watch the 24-year-old play for Corinthians against Al Ahly in their semi-final on Wednesday afternoon.

Chelsea midfielder Romeu, who was signed from Barcelona in 2011, suffered the injury to his knee during the Blues' 3-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

With Michael Essien out on loan at Real Madrid, Raul Meireles sold to Fenerbahce and John Obi Mikel suspended for a further two matches, Benitez faces a shortage of defensive midfielders going into the crucial Christmas fixture list.

And The Times reports Benitez is ready to bring in midfield reinforcements when the transfer window reopens in January.

Paulinho has a release clause in his Corinthians contract, and will be available for £11m after the Club World Cup in Japan.

But Chelsea face competition for his signature from Premier League champions Manchester City, big-spending Paris St-Germain and Serie 'A' giants Inter Milan.

And the report claims Chelsea will turn to Newcastle midfielder Cheik Tiote if they miss out on Paulinho.

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