Villas-Boas faces night to determine his destiny

 

Andre Villas-Boas will not even contemplate the prospect of failure for Chelsea tonight. Failure to beat Valencia, failure to maintain his club's proud record of qualifying from the group stage of the Champions League each time they have entered the competition. The future, the Portuguese admits, extends no further than 9.35pm this evening.

"We cannot speak about [what might happen if Chelsea fail to qualify]," said the Portuguese. "We have to focus on the game. I have not thought about what happens afterwards. My concentration is on the game, not what is going to happen after the game."

Villas-Boas's steadfast refusal even to discuss what defeat, or by extension victory, might mean for him and for the club he joined five months ago illustrates how high the stakes are at Stamford Bridge this evening. The 34-year-old will not talk about them, but there are two futures for Chelsea.

In one, they qualify for the last 16 and Villas-Boas's attempts to inject new life into the club gain yet more momentum. In the other, they are eliminated, and the questions and the crisis return.

Daniel Sturridge, one of the prime beneficiaries of the Portuguese's reign, maintained the Panglossian perspective yesterday that Chelsea's players are certain Villas-Boas will see out his contract, but more seasoned observers of Roman Abramovich's capricious rule know there are no such certainties, that his rule hangs in the balance.

"The mood among the players has been great," said the striker. "Everyone's happy and bubbling as a squad. Even after the losses we've had, we've always had the confidence in ourselves and the manager. The attacking style he's trying to implement in the squad does work. In the future you'll see that it works. We'll always work for him and try hard for him. We know he'll be the manager for the next three years. We're not worried about any other manager coming in because we know he's going to be here for those three years."

Lose – or manage only a score draw – tonight, and that prospect will seem more remote than it does already. It is on these moments that a manager's reign turns.

Crucial victory at Newcastle safely achieved, Villas-Boas was able to insist yesterday that his squad agree with his decision to ostracise Alex and Nicolas Anelka to the youth team and the transfer list; lose to Valencia, and the benefit of the doubt is lost too.

"The players are not being treated like criminals," Villas-Boas insisted yesterday. "The group accepted the decision. It was taken with big thoughts, not lightly. It was discussed with the players. These are top professionals and we will continue to give them everything they need.

"It was a decision based upon the run of results we've been having, and we wanted everyone focused on the future of the club. It's hard for the players to be apart from people who represent a lot to them and are their friends. But the players still have contact with us. Their professionalism and integrity will never be in doubt, but we want the right mind-set. For players on the transfer list, the reality is that, eventually, the mind-set is not the same."

Villas-Boas's uncharacteristically populist appeal to the club's fans to exhibit that they, too, retain their faith, likewise, depends on perspective. On the back of a victory which kept them in touch with the league's top three, it seems a rallying call to arms. Should Valencia attain the result they need, then it will look little more than a desperate, cynical tugging of the heartstrings, even conjuring up the image of a result from Chelsea's more gilded recent past in an attempt to stir Stamford Bridge's passions.

"The fans can have a massive impact," said Villas-Boas. "They will have to unite themselves. I know the atmosphere can be raised here, just like we did in the 4-2 against Barcelona [under Jose Mourinho in 2005]. If they do that, we would have the right ambience to take on Valencia with that extra input."

That they are in this position at all, Villas-Boas accepts, is their own fault. It is the one hypothetical he is prepared to mention. "We have ourselves to blame," he acknowledged. "The small details got away from us at Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen. If they had not, we would be sitting here having qualified."

There would be far fewer questions about his own future if that was the case, of course. That future, as he admits, begins at around 9.35pm.

Key confrontations

Daniel Sturridge v Jordi Alba

Two emerging 22-year-olds face up on Chelsea's right flank. Sturridge, who has scored in three of Chelsea's last four games, likes to run off the wing towards the goal. Alba may be left unsure whether to follow Sturridge or not, especially if Branislav Ivanovic runs beyond him to the byline.

 

Oriol Romeu v Jonas

The young Spaniard Romeu has impressed with the maturity of his distribution for Chelsea, showing off the value of his education at Barcelona's La Masia. He will have a different challenge this evening, tracking the movement of Brazil international forward Jonas, who will play behind Roberto Soldado.

Suggested Topics
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game