By Ian Winrow
Andre Villas-Boas was asked to provide an explanation of his unexpected team selection to owner Roman Abramovich in the wake of Chelsea's 3-1 Champions League defeat to Napoli on Tuesday night.
Villas-Boas (right) met with Michael Emenalo, the club's technical director, as part of the inquest into a defeat that left the Premier League club facing a daunting challenge in the second leg at Stamford Bridge if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Abramovich was not at Stadio San Paolo to see the team's latest disappointing result in a poor run played out against a backdrop of reports of growing player discontent. He has, however, been a more visible figure this month, becoming a regular visitor at the Cobham training ground – and the manager acknowledged that the questions by Emenalo about the game, and his decision to put experienced players such as Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard on the bench, came directly from the owner himself.
"He is disappointed about the result and asking questions about how we set up the team and they were duly explained," said the manager. "Again, we shared ideas regarding what happened in the game but we still have 90 minutes to play and we strongly believe we can turn the tie around.
"The owner ... just wants to know the thought process."
That owner's track record of impatience means Villas-Boas' position is under scrutiny: the Portuguese is the only one of the six managers hired by Abramovich with a win rate below 50 per cent.
Villas-Boas, though, maintained yesterday he retains the full backing of his employer, dismissing reports that Rafael Benitez had been lined up to replace him, later denied both by Benitez's agent and Chelsea.
While he admits to some mistakes since succeeding Carlo Ancelotti, the manager refuses to count his team selection in Naples as one of them. "No, I don't have any regrets regarding the team," he said. "It was the selection I felt was completely right."
Anything less than victory against Bolton at home tomorrow will add to the pressure on him as he faces the toughest part of the season without his captain. Villas-Boas conceded the loss of John Terry for at least six weeks with a knee problem was a bad blow. "We badly miss him. It is a massive loss. A leader and a great performer even through adversity."Reuse content