Blues back in title race – AVB
The past three weeks have seen Villas-Boas’ Blues almost halve what
was a 12-point gap to leaders City, while victory at Wigan tomorrow
will see them close to within just four points of top spot.
Chelsea’s victory over City on Monday gave hope to all of the
chasing pack, with United able to overhaul their Manchester rivals
– temporarily at least – by winning at QPR on Sunday. But
Villas-Boas’ side’s success also put the top two on red alert that
they may be about to produce the sort of run that saw them almost
overcome a 16-point deficit to win last season’s title. “Nothing is
going to be decided in December or January, but this is a stressful
situation between the Manchester clubs,” Villas-Boas said. “So that
gives us, the people chasing, the chance to shorten the distance.
“In four games in the Premier League, we reduced the distance by
five points. “We play Tottenham, we play Wigan, Aston Villa and
Fulham. “If we are able to shorten by another five points, it would
be magnificent, but I wouldn’t say that would happen. “It’s Man
City-Arsenal being played this weekend and, again, this can have an
influence on how the Premier League top four and five can look at
the end of December.” Villas-Boas knows his side must keep winning
to maintain the pressure on City, who he is not expecting to go
into meltdown after Monday’s controversial loss at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s not the first time that they’ve suffered defeat,” he said.
“It’s the first time in the league, of course, but it’s not the
first time that they’ve suffered a defeat this season and they’ve
responded magnificently well.” Victory tomorrow would maintain
Chelsea’s 100% record since the start of the month, a run that has
coincided with Villas-Boas abandoning his much-maligned high
defensive line. But he said: “Our defensive organisation was never,
ever in question. “High line, or low line or whatever line,
Liverpool are the best defence with 13 (conceded), then it’s Man
City with 15, and we are on 18. “So I would say that we are pretty
much a good defensive, solid organisation.” So what does
Villas-Boas believe is the secret behind Chelsea’s resurgence?
“Confidence has a major boost – confidence, motivation,” he said.
“As you win, I think you solidify those processes. “Hopefully, that
is what is happening and we have to continue to perform, which is
always difficult.” The same applies in the Champions League
following today’s draw that paired Chelsea with Napoli, who
effectively knocked City out of the competition. The Blues will
still be favourites to progress but not favourites for the
competition, with Barcelona and Real Madrid hotly tipped. But
Villas-Boas, who won the Europa League with Porto last season,
said: “It was funny because when I was at Porto, the Europa League
favourites kept on changing as teams progressed or not.
“Eventually, a lot of big, big favourites fell out of the Europa
League, from Man City, to Sevilla, to all of the Champions League
teams apart from Benfica and Braga. “That means at the moment there
is a prediction but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to play right.”
Speaking before today’s draw was made, he added: “There’s a big
advantage to playing the second leg at home. “This is the most
gratifying thing of finishing first because it can stimulate your
fans to create the right environment to help you get the result
that you need to go through. “If we manage to get this environment
for the rest of the campaign, Premier League, or Champions League,
or FA Cup, it’ll certainly be a major help.” Something else that
would help Chelsea’s chase for silverware would be the availability
of Didier Drogba for as long as possible before the African Nations
Cup. City this week successfully negotiated for Yaya and Kolo Toure
to link up with the Ivory Coast squad after their Carling Cup
semi-final first leg against Liverpool. That is 10 days before the
African Nations Cup begins and Villas-Boas would like similar
treatment for Drogba and Salomon Kalou, who he could be forced to
release before Chelsea’s FA Cup tie with Portsmouth three days
earlier. Asked if that was only fair, he said: “I would say so.
“I’m not sure if it’s possible or not.”