Villas-Boas defiant on Chelsea future
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has insisted that he retains the full backing of Blues owner Roman Abramovich despite the club's recent poor form. The Blues are fifth in the Barclays Premier League and look to be heading out of the UEFA Champions League following their 3-1 defeat to Napoli on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old's future has been the source of speculation over the last few weeks and reports have claimed there are rifts within the Stamford Bridge dressing room. But when asked whether he still has the backing of Abramovich, Villas-Boas told a press conference this afternoon: "Yes. Of course."
Villas-Boas controversially left out Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Ashley Cole for the first leg of the last-16 tie in Italy, which Chelsea led before a defensive horror show saw them concede three goals. The Portuguese stood by his team selection today, although he did admit that he had to explain why he chose the starting XI he did to the club's hierarchy.
He said: "No, I do not have any regrets about team selection... It was completely right. I have spoken to the persons near to him (Abramovich). He is disappointed and asking questions about how we set up the team, which were duly explained."
Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, who has been out of a job since December 2010, has been linked with taking over from Villas-Boas, but the Spaniard's agent denied any approach had been made. Manuel Garcia Quilon told Press Association Sport: "There is nothing official. It's only media speculation and we have not been approached by Chelsea. We would only evaluate that possibility once there is an offer."
Villas-Boas denied reports that Cole had questioned his tactics. "This is not true," said the Chelsea boss, who has won just four of his last 14 games. Villas-Boas continued by denying that Cole had been left out of the XI that played in Italy because he had fallen out with his manager. "He had two training sessions before that game. That made an impact on the selection process," Villas-Boas said.
The former Porto manager, a surprise recruitment to succeed double Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti last summer, insists he is not feeling the strain despite the club's failings on the pitch. "It doesn't affect me at all," Villas-Boas said. "Last year I was linked with lots of different clubs whenever results didn't go [right for them], it is the same with this club."
Lampard was a regular under Villas-Boas' predecessors but he has become an increasingly marginal figure under the young Portuguese boss. He was unhappy at being omitted from the Chelsea team in Naples but Villas-Boas claims the incident has been blown out of proportion.
"In the end it is the decision of the manager and Frank accepts it," Villas-Boas said. "It's difficult for him to take with the involvement he's had in the Champions League and I wouldn't expect it any other way, but it is the manager's decision and although it's difficult to take it's for the benefit of the team. We had a discussion. There is nothing to resolve."
Lampard's contract expires at the end of next season and he has been linked with a number of clubs, but Villas-Boas is keen for the former West Ham man to stay. "I hope he is here next season," the Chelsea manager added.
As vice-captain, Lampard is in line to captain the Blues for the next few weeks as John Terry recovers from a long-standing knee injury. Villas-Boas' team have struggled without Terry at the back and the Chelsea boss admits losing the former England skipper is a massive blow.
"We badly miss him. It is a massive, massive loss," Villas-Boas said. "He is a leader and a great performer even through adversity. He has had his knee operation and he will be out for between five and six weeks, hopefully sooner."