AVB not worried by popularity

Blues boss Villas-Boas reacted to Tuesday’s night’s crucial

Champions League win over Valencia by suggesting there had been an

agenda against the club from those spellbound by the performances

of Premier League leaders Manchester City. Villas-Boas admitted the

slump from which Chelsea are only just emerging had provided

ammunition to their detractors, who have included several big-name

ex-players. But he maintained most of the criticism levelled at him

and his squad was out of order. “A lot of things that were said,

most of the things, were wrong,” he said. “One day I will open the

doors of training for you guys for a couple of days and you will

see the players have the talent and ability and want to compete.

“That’s what we hold on to during extreme criticism.” He added:

“It’s fair for you guys to admit that the media darlings of the

press are blue collar and not Chelsea. “We were unfairly treated a

couple of times, and fairly by yourselves in the beginning. “It’s a

love and hate relationship.” Villas-Boas certainly did not love

reports this week of heated dressing room exchanges between himself

and his players. “If their informant got paid, get the money back,”

said the 34-year-old, who has nevertheless demonstrated a ruthless

streak to get Chelsea back to winning ways, axing Nicolas Anelka

and Alex from his first-team squad and dropping Frank Lampard on

Tuesday. Asked if being liked by his players or people in general

bothered him, he said: “I don’t care.” In truth, it matters little

whether Villas-Boas is liked as long as Chelsea keep winning, and

he has the ideal opportunity to convert his doubters on Monday when

City visit Stamford Bridge. Roberto Mancini’s men and Manchester

United have hardly been spared the flak over the past couple of

days after crashing out of the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Villas-Boas played down the implications of City’s demise both for

Monday’s game and the rest of a season which will see them and

United compete in the Europa League. “We go back to the Premier

League where they are more than fair leaders with outstanding

performance levels,” Villas-Boas said of City, who have dropped

just four points all season. “When you see a leader of this

dimension, it’s never a good time to play them. They’re outstanding

every week.” They are also 10 points clear of fourth-placed Chelsea

and will make that a whopping 13 if they win at Stamford Bridge.

Villas-Boas insisted recovering from that deficit was “not

impossible” and was adamant his side did not need to win the game

themselves to remain realistic title contenders. He added: “There’s

no quitting, and there will be quitting of belief. But 13 points

would be a massive gap again.” Victory, meanwhile, would give a

huge psychological boost to a Chelsea side who have lost all their

domestic matches against other big teams this season. Having

produced a run of five defeats in nine games, the Blues have now

won three of their last four and Villas-Boas admitted they needed

“one more” success to prove they were back in the groove. He added:

“But we’re playing the leaders, and they’ll put on a massive

challenge for us.” Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp recently hailed

City’s squad as better than Barcelona’s. Villas-Boas disagreed and

also questioned whether they could go a whole league season

unbeaten, like his own Porto side did last year. But he added: “The

further they go in the league with the amount of wins they’ve been

having, the more they’ll believe this is their year.” Having

already been to Old Trafford, Anfield and White Hart Lane, Monday’s

game is one of the last of City’s tough away trips this term and it

will be fascinating to see how Villas-Boas sets out his team after

sacrificing his cavalier ideals for victory on Tuesday night.

“We’ve seen teams try different things against City, and no one has

beaten them,” he said. “We have to think.”