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.”