AVB: Losing Terry for Napoli game would be a massive blow

Chelsea 1 Birmingham 1: Chelsea defence exposed by Championship opposition needs captain to recover fitness

Stamford Bridge

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 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 after colliding with a post, 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. "He's a player of great importance. I will leave it as late as possible and make a decision on him after the training of the team in Naples. Of course JT is a great leader, gives you an extra emotional push. If he misses out on Tuesday, then 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.

"Napoli come into the game after a good result at Fiorentina [3-0]," he said. "It's important for us to be competent and to bring the game to Stamford Bridge with a win or a draw, ideally a scoring draw. Then we can finish the business here." He was even tempted, a little unwisely perhaps, into looking beyond this round of the competition: "If you go past Napoli then you can have a really good chance, if you get a good draw. First Napoli, then we will see who we draw out and then we will see. But we are in with a really good chance. It will be a massive challenge. Everyone saw what Napoli did in a group which put another English team out."

That team, of course, were Manchester City, held at the Etihad and beaten 2-1 in southern Italy, unable to cope on either occasion with the interchanging front three of Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi. While agreeing that Cavani is "amazing", Villas-Boas says: "Their strength is in the collective spirit; they have an inner belief in each other"

It is tempting to ask how Chelsea compare on that score and whether their belief extends as far as the manager. Didier Drogba was reported to have been delivering a pep-talk to his team-mates in the tunnel at half-time after being brought on as replacement for poor Fernando Torres. Villas-Boas continues to insist that the Spaniard will regain form and confidence, which he finally agrees the player is lacking, but he could not continue to indulge him on Saturday when the prospect loomed of a home defeat by a lower division side – it would have been Chelsea's first at home in the Cup since Oxford United beat them more than 20 years ago.

David Murphy had exploited poor defensive work at a corner to put Birmingham ahead and after Colin Doyle brilliantly saved Juan Mata's penalty, it required a header by Daniel Sturridge to prevent serious embarrassment. A bad result this season against Birmingham, revitalised by Chris Hughton, has led to four managers losing their job: Sven Goran Eriksson (Leicester), Steve McClaren (Nottingham Forest), Adie Koster (Bruges) and Simon Grayson (Leeds). Villas-Boas lives to fight another day in another competition, and Hughton expects him to be in the opposite dugout for the replay on 6 March.

Match facts

Chelsea: CECH 7/10; IVANOVIC 7; CAHILL 6; LUIZ 6; BERTRAND 6; RAMIRES 6; MIKEL 5; MEIRELES 5; STURRIDGE 6; TORRES 5; MATA 7

Birmingham: DOYLE 8; MURPHY 7; IBANEZ 7; DAVIES 7; CARR n/a; GOMIS 7; FAHEY 7; REDMOND 7; MUTCH 6; ELLIOTT 6; ROONEY 6

Scorers: Chelsea Murphy 20. Birmingham City Sturridge 62.

Substitutes: Chelsea Drogba 6 (Torres, h-t), Kalou 5 (Mikel, 57), Lampard (Mata, 83). Birmingham Spector 6 (Carr, 12), Jervis (Rooney, 71), Burke (Elliott, 83).

Booked: Chelsea Cahill, Luiz. Birmingham Mutch.

Man of the match Doyle. Match rating 7/10.

Possession: Chelsea 54% Birmingham 46%.

Attempts on target: Chelsea 5 Birmingham 5.

Referee M Atkinson (West Yorkshire) Attendance 36,870.

At least Villas-Boas is doing things his way

talking football, page 8

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living