Villas-Boas: PL title may be over

Andre Villas-Boas all but conceded the Barclays Premier League title after watching Chelsea drop another two points in the west London derby on Boxing Day.

But the Blues boss shrugged off the potential implications of writing off his side’s championship challenge before the halfway point of the season, despite Roman Abramovich having sacked every manager who had failed to win the league since buying the club.

After beating leaders Manchester City two weeks ago to haul themselves back into the title race, Chelsea completed a hat-trick of 1-1 draws on Boxing Day to leave them 10 points off the pace ahead of City’s trip to West Brom and Manchester United’s game with Wigan.

Anticipating another victory for Roberto Mancini’s men, Villas-Boas said: "There’s no big drama in terms of how we look at things. But you have to be sufficiently real.

"The difference between us and the top will be big.

"We had reduced it to seven points recently, but 13 points would be new for us.

"With City and United continuing to get the points they are getting at the moment, it’ll be difficult.

"That is the perspective we have to make at the moment: it’s difficult. It’s not impossible. You cannot say that.

"But we have to focus on our position at the moment and make a real assessment. Maybe the Premier League is over for us at the moment.

"We’d targeted the December fixtures as an ideal situation to find out what would happen in the Premier League. We continue to do that."

Villas-Boas dismissed suggestions it was dangerous for him to acknowledge Chelsea could not win the title considering Abramovich’s history of jettisoning managers.

He added: "There is always tension for you to get results in a massive club like this one.

"You have to be real. You cannot live under false expectations when the gap is this big."

Chelsea had been on course for victory when Juan Mata fired them ahead two minutes after half-time but Clint Dempsey equalised nine minutes later before Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale kept them at bay.

Villas-Boas said: "Today we weren’t good enough to get the three points, that was pretty clear.

"We created enough chances to try to win the game. We had a good second half, had a lot of good opportunities, but always collided against a brave Fulham defence or against Stockdale, who had a fantastic game."

Someone who did not was Fernando Torres, the £50million man flopping on what was his first league start for almost two months – and in front of Stamford Bridge legend Jimmy Greaves, who met Chelsea’s players after being guest of honour at the game.

Villas-Boas refused to criticise Torres, saying: "He worked well for the team, assisted Mata for his goal, and showed the level of commitment he has shown in training.

"We don’t judge our strikers on the score.

What is important is that they make an impact. That is what we expect from them."

Villas-Boas also confirmed Jose Bosingwa had picked up a hamstring or thigh problem, while revealing Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel were both around a fortnight away from returning from hamstring injuries of their own.

Fulham boss Martin Jol admitted gambling on his team selection after strikers Bobby Zamora (Achilles) and Andy Johnson (groin) both pulled out injured.

"Sometimes you have to take a gamble, and that is what we did today," he said.

"Our two main strikers dropped out so we had to come up with something else. I think it paid off."

Indeed, Fulham were unrecognisable from Wednesday night’s 5-0 home thrashing by Manchester United.

Jol added: "We had a good result against Liverpool, a good result at the Emirates.

"You can’t say we are inconsistent – it was just against United that we didn’t have a good result.

"We’ve shown we can give all these teams a good game."

Jol was particularly delighted for Stockdale after the young goalkeeper was forced to pick the ball out of his own net five times against United.

Jol, who was uncertain whether Zamora or Johnson would be fit for Saturday’s trip to Norwich, added: "They had one chance in the first half and I thought we were the better team in the first half."