Chelsea must focus on the League before Europe, says Villas-Boas


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The Independent Football

Andre Villas-Boas begins his career as a Premier League manager tomorrow when he takes his Chelsea side to Stoke.

While insisting that regaining the league title is "always the priority", he was adamant that the football "philosophy" he spoke about so passionately yesterday would not be compromised for pragmatic gains.

Expectations are high at the club with Villas-Boas brought in this summer after the sacking of the man who took Chelsea to the league and FA Cup double in 2010, and the Portuguese said he could "only dream to emulate" Carlo Ancelotti's debut season at Stamford Bridge.

Despite the talk that improving in Europe was his brief, Villas-Boas insisted that "the domestic title is always the priority". The random element of a knockout competition, he said, made European success harder. "We're not that far away," he said, "but it depends so much on the draw, in the group phase and the knockout phases. There has been a pattern in the last four years, I know, but that luck is needed still in the Champions League."

For all his praise of Ancelotti's achievements, though, Villas-Boas wants to change the approach at the Bridge, saying that Chelsea's "game looked slow last year". Having won the Portuguese league, cup and Europa League in his only season as Porto manager, Villas-Boas is an unashamed purist for attacking football. "I have a love for football that is well played," he said. "We want the ball as high [up the field] as possible, and as much as possible. It's about getting the team, the line, all pressurising together."

Despite the exceptionally direct and physical approach of Stoke at the Britannia Stadium, he has no intention of compromising. "Our philosophy has to stick, independent of challenges we will face," he insisted. "Their philosophy is there and you know they play this way. We just hope we can build a different philosophy for ourselves over the course of the season that's different to what we had last year."

Fernando Torres should be available tomorrow but Branislav Ivanovic is an injury doubt and David Luiz is out while Danny Sturridge is suspended. Villas-Boas confirmed that another young striker, Romelu Lukaku, would be a Chelsea player "within days or hours".