Villas-Boas: Chelsea are still in the title race
Manager says six points from next two games is vital to build on battling draw.
Friday 23 December 2011
Andre Villas-Boas, the Chelsea manager, believes his side must win their next two matches to remain in the Premier League title race but drew sufficient encouragement from their 1-1 draw at Tottenham last night to be confident about their chances of doing so.
Chelsea came into the game with the focus firmly on their captain John Terry, who faces a courtroom battle to save his reputation after being charged with racially abusing the Queen's Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand. The Crown Prosecution Service announced that there was a "realistic prospect of conviction" in the case of Terry, who is charged with "a racially aggravated public order offence" and will face court on 1 February.
Yet despite being barracked throughout the game by the Tottenham fans, Terry grew in confidence as the game progressed and made a crucial goal-line clearance to deny Emmanuel Adebayor a winning goal in the closing moments of the match. Terry had been subjected to a series of abusive chants about the case and his family from the home support at regular intervals.
Despite Didier Drogba and Ramires failing to finish good second-half chances, Villas-Boas is convinced his team remain a threat to Manchester City and Manchester United at the top of the table, and praised his captain for a resilient display.
"I think we can still win it, if we take six points from our next two home fixtures," said Villas-Boas. "Fulham on Boxing Day will be a difficult local derby, and then we face Aston Villa five days later.
"John Terry's performances have improved since the incident happened. He is a fantastic player, his commitment has never been in doubt and nor have his talent or quality. He is focused on the cause of the club and his performance has never dropped a single level.
"Whatever the result had been in this game, it would not have mattered, because the performance was outstanding," he added. "Coming here, with Tottenham on the run they have been on, and the commitment they have shown in trying to win the League, we have to think a point is excellent in terms of our League challenge."
Terry led some of the players to the area housing the away supporters at the end of the game and threw his shirt to the travelling Chelsea fans. When Chelsea lost Branislav Ivanovic to injury during the first half, Jose Bosingwa moved from right-back to partner the England captain, before Jon Obi Mikel also came off before half-time. Villas-Boas does not believe the injuries are serious but is likely to try to sign a centre-back next month, with Bolton's Gary Cahill high on his list of priorities.
"Cahill is one extremely talented player, and it's pretty obvious we will be in the market for a centre-back," Villas-Boas admitted. "Let the market open and we will find out what happens."
The point keeps Tottenham two points clear of Chelsea with a game in hand, but manager Harry Redknapp is worried about a mounting injury list. Substitute Younes Kaboul suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up before Rafael van der Vaart was taken off at half-time with a similar problem that is expected to rule him out of the Christmas and new year fixtures.
Redknapp said: "Rafa keeps getting hamstring injuries. When he plays, he is fantastic, but he just can't shake this problem. There are a lot of games in a short space of time and it's difficult when you pick up injuries.
"In the end there were chances, some great chances at the end but certainly a point is a fair result. We lost Rafa at half-time and we really lost the balance of our team. We had to stick Luka [Modric] out side... it became a problem. Without Aaron around it's difficult to find a balance to your team.
"Manchester City and Manchester United are red-hot favourites for the title, but we've been on a great run, and Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are there, too. It will be close for the title and the top four."
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