Defiant AVB: this game will not define my career
Chelsea manager in testy mood ahead of Napoli tie – and wants board to offer public support
Andre Villas-Boas yesterday launched a defiant defence of his position as Chelsea manager on the eve of tonight's Champions League tie with Napoli but hinted that he would like someone in the club's hierarchy to come out to say so publicly.
The Chelsea manager, who has won just one of his last six games in all competitions, said that tonight's game in Naples would not be decisive in his future at the club and that whatever happened he would still enjoy the full backing of the club. His press conference at the San Paolo stadium was watched by chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Ron Gourlay although it is thought Roman Abramovich will not be at the game.
When it was put to him that tonight's game could be career-defining, Villas-Boas was dismissive, replying: "That's your conclusion, no?" He added: "These words [that he will not be sacked in the near future] would be more valuable coming from the top to you guys, I know. I cannot keep saying them, but as the voice of the club, I will continue to perpetuate this message because this is what we believe in."
He added: "There's an obvious tendency for [doubt about the manager's position], in the past, to happen. But from the messages you've received from the club and the board in the recent past, there's a clear indication that there's a change in the way we approach the projects for the future. We have great belief in what we will do next year, setting up a team to bring us the biggest amount of trophies we can have.
"But that doesn't take away from the responsibilities for this year. In terms of the results this year, the speculation is normal given the cultural past of this football club, but you have to understand that there's a different perspective now. On that policy, you'll have to ask my superiors. I have the full confidence for the owner, I am here to do my job. And my job is for this year and the next two years."
John Terry is still a "major doubt" for the game with his knee problem, Villas-Boas said. The Chelsea captain played a restricted role in training at the stadium last night. As for Ashley Cole, who has a calf injury, Villas-Boas said that he had "more chance" of playing but was still not a certainty.
There were shameful scenes outside the Chelsea team hotel in the port area of Naples yesterday when a group of around 30 Napoli supporters gathered outside and directed racist chants towards the black players in the squad who were having lunch on the first floor of the Grand Hotel Vesuvio.
The incident takes place just days after Napoli asked its supporters to treat the tie with "enthusiasm, warmth and peaceful sporting passion". In response last night, Chelsea issued a statement condemning "any form of discriminatory behaviour [which is] totally abhorrent and we believe it has no place in society. If any members of our team or staff are subjected to racist abuse we would find that wholly unacceptable and it would be reflected in our conversations with Uefa".
Villas-Boas said that the tie would not be over tonight. "It [the first leg] does not define anything. The second leg will define something, one of the two teams getting knocked out. But we have to be conscious of Napoli's strengths at the San Paolo, a team that has been built up with Europa League qualification and now have done very well in the Champions League. [The first leg] is all about awareness of Napoli's strengths and to bring a positive result back to Stamford Bridge."
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