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Premier League

Villas-Boas rules out recall for Alex


Andre Villas-Boas has reiterated he will not bring Alex in from the cold, even if it means Chelsea starting Boxing Day's west London derby with John Terry as their only fit centre-half.

Blues boss Villas-Boas was asked on Wednesday whether he would reverse his decision to banish Alex from his first-team squad should the club suffer an injury crisis.

Despite having previously claimed Alex and Nicolas Anelka, who were sidelined after submitting transfer requests, could force their way back into his plans, he declared the former would not be recalled - even if the worst happened.

Barely 24 hours later, it did, with Branislav Ivanovic limping out of Thursday night's 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw at Tottenham.

Asked afterwards if he had changed his mind about Alex ahead of Monday's game against Fulham, Villas-Boas simply said: "No."

In fairness, Chelsea coped admirably at White Hart Lane with the loss of Ivanovic, despite Jose Bosingwa being forced to move from right-back to centre-half for what was possibly the first time in his entire Stamford Bridge career.

Paulo Ferreira also impressed at right-back having not previously featured in the Premier League this season.

"This was a fantastic adaptation and another solution that we have in the squad," Villas-Boas said.

With Ivanovic almost certainly out of Monday's match, Villas-Boas was hoping David Luiz would return from the knee problem that has sidelined him from the last two games.

Otherwise, he insisted he would even consider playing young midfielder Oriol Romeu alongside Terry rather than turn to Alex.

"Hopefully, David can return for contention for the game against Fulham," he said.

"But, if not, from Oriol to Bosingwa, both can play in that position - and Paulo has done it in the past."

Any defensive crisis may last no more than a week, with Bolton boss Owen Coyle yesterday confirming the club were in talks with Chelsea over the transfer of Gary Cahill.

Villas-Boas said of Cahill, who Wanderers must sell to avoid losing for free in the summer: "He is extremely interesting, a player of course that terminates his contract.

"But we would be stupid if we shortened our targets just to one."

He added: "I think you know that we will be in the market for a centre-half. It's pretty obvious based on the fact that we've accepted Alex's transfer request.

"We'll have to let the market open and then find out what happens regarding Alex.

"We will have to respond quickly in the market, not because of the urgency but because we're willing to fill that position with one more central defender."

Chelsea have also been heavily linked with a loan move for Juventus winger Milos Krasic, who has been touted as a replacement for Shanghai-bound Anelka and cover for Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou when they depart on African Nations Cup duty.

Krasic's signing would allow Daniel Sturridge to deputise at centre-forward, with Fernando Torres still struggling for form and looking increasingly unlikely to find it sat on the bench.

Frank Lampard is of the same opinion about his own lot, with the midfielder having now been left out for the last three big games.

The 33-year-old will return to the side on Monday after Ramires picked up his fifth domestic booking of the season at White Hart Lane.

Villas-Boas said: "Lamps is an exceptional player and his level of commitment and his level of talent will never be in doubt.

"I'm sure he'll make his way back into the team again with the way he fights in training to try to get back into contention."

Fourth-placed Chelsea are also fighting to get back into contention in a title race which sees them 11 points behind leaders Manchester City, but Villas-Boas was expecting a backlash from a Fulham side thrashed 5-0 at home by Manchester United on Wednesday night.

He said: "A result like that, also the result that they got in the Europa League, generates revolt and generates anger, which can fuel emotions for a London derby that is extremely difficult for us."