As the Queen's Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand broke his long silence by saying he had "very strong feelings" about any possible racial abuse, Chelsea last night continued their backing for John Terry, who is likely to captain the team in a Champions League tie here this evening.
After keeping his own counsel for eight days since rumours that he was allegedly abused by the England captain, Ferdinand (right) issued a statement through his club saying: "I have very strong feelings on the matter, but in the interests of fairness and not wishing to prejudice what I am sure will be a very thorough inquiry by the FA, this will be my last comment on the subject until the inquiry is concluded. I would like to thank the Club, Tony Fernandes, Amit Bhatia, Neil Warnock, the supporters and my fellow professionals for their unwavering support."
Chelsea made it clear they would not take any questions on the matter at a media conference ahead of the Genk game, although their manager, Andre Villas-Boas, implied he was happy to pick Terry, as he did in the 5-3 home defeat by Arsenal on Saturday. "He's been excellent throughout," Villas-Boas said, which some felt was hardly the case during the weekend game.
Branislav Ivanovic, Terry's partner in the centre of a defence that was repeatedly breached in straightforward fashion, admitted that the players had to "look at ourselves in the mirror", and said: "It was a tough game and I think there were a lot of reasons for the manager to be angry."
Villa-Boas, however, denied he had raged at the team as reported in one newspaper yesterday. "It's not true," he said. "There was no kind of rant or extra work. There was a conversation as there would always be after a game."
His own opinion is that after a satisfactory start to the season Chelsea had "a very bad week" with defeats by QPR and Arsenal and that they merely need to find the right balance between the more attacking style he is trying to introduce and defensive responsibility: "That doesn't mean our castle went down. The philosophy will never change but we have to recover and get back on the right track."
A performance as convincing as the 5-0 win over Genk at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago would help persuade doubters that the "castle" is not built on sand. Chelsea will qualify for the knockout stage for the ninth successive season if they win tonight and Valencia fail to do so at home to Bayer Leverkusen.