AVB ready for ‘awkward’ start

The 33-year-old former Porto coach will be expected to hit the

ground running when the 2011/2012 domestic campaign kicks off in

six weeks time. Having cancelled a game against Vitesse Arnhem at

the request of the new manager, the Blues will go to Portsmouth for

their first official warm-up match on July 16 before then

travelling to the Far East ahead of the Asia Trophy, with a date

against Rangers in Glasgow on August 6. Villas-Boas is in no doubt

the squad will be fully prepared for the unique challenge which

awaits them at the Britannia Stadium, which will be followed by

home games against West Brom and new-boys Norwich, while top-five

rivals Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City

will all face somewhat tougher openings including games against

each other. “It is an awkward start,” the Chelsea manager admitted.

“We go to Stoke, who had a successful year last year, and are an

aggressive, straightforward and forward-thinking team. “It is a big

challenge in the first game, then we have two home games and we are

happy to start in this way. “We have to be confident enough from

the start to be able to perform. “We have two weeks in Cobham, then

we move to Asia. “It is important for the club to expand its brand

in the Asian market, so that is important to show ourselves to them

as well, then we are back for another two weeks before Rangers and

Stoke. “We have good enough preparation to be ready for Stoke, and

we will progress from there. “We don’t treat pre-season different

than we do in the season. Everything will be building up for the

next game.” New assistant manager Roberto di Matteo is confident

Chelsea can make a strong start to the campaign, much like they did

under Carlo Ancelotti in August last year. Speaking to Sky Sport

Italia, the former West Brom boss said: “Like another couple of

teams, Chelsea will have an easy start, well at least until week

five when we are away to Manchester United. “United will have two

big games early on, Tottenham in week two and then Arsenal in week

three, but they will know how to show why they are the champions.”

Villas-Boas’ release from his Porto contract was 15million Euros

(£13.58million), but the new Chelsea boss maintains there will

be no quick outlay of transfer cash ahead of pre-season training.

Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira insists they will shun any

big-money offer from Europe for Brazil international Neymar, with

the Blues one of several clubs said to be ready to trigger the

19-year-old’s 45million Euro get-out clause, while Anderlecht claim

their valuation for 18-year-old Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has

yet to be met. Genk keeper Thibaut Courtois, Palermo’s Argentina

striker Javier Pastore, Tottenham’s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric

as well as Porto duo Radamel Falcao and Joao Moutinho are other

potential targets. Chelsea, though, are set to sell young

midfielder Jack Cork to Southampton while teenage Dutch defender

Jeffrey Bruma has joined Hamburg on a season loan.