Losing Terry for Napoli a 'massive blow' says coach


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The Independent Online

Andre Villas-Boas has admitted that his captain, John Terry, would be "a massive loss" if he did not recover full fitness for Chelsea's Champions' League game at Napoli tomorrow night. As the tie will have considerable bearing on the young manager's employment prospects, he would feel Terry's absence all the more. Nor can he have been given any great confidence by the manner in which two expensive centre-halves, Gary Cahill and David Luiz, were troubled by a Championship team's reserve strikers on Saturday as Birmingham City earned a deserved FA Cup replay.

Terry (right) has missed the last four matches, in which Chelsea have leaked seven goals and not kept a clean sheet – having not conceded in the four previous ones when he was alongside Luiz. It was during the first of those games, the FA Cup third-round tie against Portsmouth, that he first suffered a knee problem, and despite playing on three subsequent occasions he was forced to take a break after the fourth-round victory at Queen's Park Rangers.

"It would be a massive loss for us," Villas-Boas said. "I will leave it as late as possible and make a decision on him after the training of the team in Naples. If he misses out on Tuesday, we will miss a top, top player and a player who gives us great defensive stability."

Convinced that the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, is still behind him, Villas-Boas must nevertheless be aware that he needs to go through over the two legs of the Champions' League tie, which under the new format have been stretched out over a period of three weeks. Before the home leg, Chelsea will have the opportunity to make up lost ground in the Premier League with games against Bolton and Stoke (at home) and West Bromwich Albion (away), as well as the replay against Birmingham.

Villas-Boas insists that Fernando Torres will regain form, but he could not continue to indulge him on Saturday when the prospect loomed of a home defeat by a lower division side. David Murphy had exploited poor defensive work at a corner to put Birmingham ahead, and after Colin Doyle saved Juan Mata's penalty, it required a header by Daniel Sturridge to prevent serious embarrassment.