Wins more important than clean sheets – Cech

Chelsea goalkeeper, whose side face Genk tonight, is not fazed by conceding goals as long as the wins and the style keep flowing
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The Independent Online

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is clearly buying into manager Andre Villas-Boas's weekly-stated mantra of "letting the talent flow freely", such is his nonchalance at his failure to keep clean sheets this season.

Cech, whose 1,025-minute stint without conceding a goal in 2005 was a Premier League record until Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United surpassed it in 2009, has failed to keep a clean sheet in league games since the opening match of the season when they drew 0-0 at Stoke.

The Czech Republic international admits the lack of shut-outs this season may be a symptom of the team adapting to Villas-Boas's playing style, which is far easier on the eye than many previous managers at Stamford Bridge.

But he says as long as the team is winning, there is no cause for concern. "The team comes first," Cech said. "So as long as you keep winning games... it is always better to finish with a clean sheet, but we have been playing well and we keep getting three points.

"If you finish the game 0-0 you might be happy with a clean sheet, but it is only one point. If you win 3-1 you get three points which is more important for the team. We are improving all the time and we will get back to our record of keeping clean sheets."

On three occasions this season Chelsea have conceded late goals in matches they had been in control of, most recently against Everton last weekend. Cech added: "The other team wants to control the game and the ball and as well we are not just waiting for the game to finish – we want to kill the game off. Maybe this is a reason why sometimes at the end of the game that something like this is happening.

"We were a little bit unlucky as well, not keeping our eye on little details. But we are aware of it and we are improving. It is happening at the moment but I think it will stop."

Villas-Boas, who is likely to rest a host of first-choice players in tonight's Champions League Group E game against Genk, is similarly unconcerned about the habit of conceding late goals. And he is pleased his men are beginning to play with the fluency he had envisaged from the start of the season. "Goalscoring has not been a problem," Villas-Boas said. " The most important thing for us was to progress from the first three games of the season [against Stoke, West Bromwich and Norwich]. They were not fluent in what we are trying to achieve.

"The confidence of the players has helped in getting that result. From the win at Sunderland onwards we have been able to be more fluent. The most important thing is for us to be up there challenging and at the moment things are happening for us. You always have to have space for progression and fortunately we have found consistency.

"But progression is natural not only in the players' talent, but what the team can do as well. Eventually you can get better, but to get better you have to win. This is players' talent expressed through freedom and this is why they believe more."

Chelsea will qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Genk tonight and then again in Belgium in two weeks' time and Villas-Boas added: "The opportunity is there, but it is never easy. The group is tight and anything can still happen. It is this unpredictable situation that we want to avoid by trying to win. This will put ourselves in a better position."

Villas-Boas rested John Terry for the Bayer Leverkusen game in September and kept Frank Lampard on the bench. And he hinted he may do something similar against Genk.

"The most important thing is we are aware of the amount of talent we have at our disposal," Villas-Boas said "Any XI we put out is very, very strong, as is any squad of 18 we put out."

Chelsea v Genk: Three key confrontations

Alex v Kennedy Nwanganga

Chelsea's Brazilian defender has another chance to stake a claim for a first-team spot, after poor form domestically. Nwanganga has three goals in 24 games for Genk, including last year's title clincher.

Jose Bosingwa v Thomas Buffel

Bosingwa's form has seen him start at right-back in all but one of Chelsea's games this season but he will be tested by Buffel, 30, a pacy winger who had three years at Rangers.

Fernando Torres v Anele Ngongca

A domestic suspension halted Torres' rejuvenation so he will be short of game-time against a versatile South African who has attracted interest from Manchester City and Spurs.

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