AVB: We can’t Bridge title gap

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 Monday 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

today 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.”