Andre Villas-Boas, the Chelsea manager, has admitted his interest in Bolton Wanderers centre-back Gary Cahill after revealing the extent of his rift with Alex, the defender who recently requested to leave Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are expected to face stiff competition from Tottenham Hotspur, their opponents at White Hart Lane tonight, for the England defender. Cahill is in the final year of his contract and expected to leave the Reebok Stadium in January.
Villas-Boas's pressing need for an additional central defender was highlighted by John Terry's injury scare this week before the meeting with Spurs. With David Luiz out with a knee problem, the manager would have been forced to review his options had Terry not been declared fit for tonight.
Villas-Boas admitted he would not have contemplated recalling Alex to partner Branislav Ivanovic after forcing the Brazil defender to train away from the first-team squad, preferring to use midfielders Oriol Romeu or John Obi Mikel as a makeshift centre-back.
Asked whether Alex would have replaced Terry, Villas-Boas said:"No. We'd have to do something. Romeu played central defence at Barcelona, Paulo Ferreira too. Mikel wouldn't be strange in that position. That can happen and we've thought about it. And we've been training with three at the back as well."
Villas-Boas insists no formal bid has been made for Cahill, although he made it clear that he is an admirer of the 26-year-old.
"We're aware of Gary's contractual situation. His talent is never in question. He is an interesting player for the club," he said.
"We'll have to let the market open and make the wisest of decisions, whether it be on Alex, Cahill or other central defenders who are available."
Having apparently brought themselves back into the title race with victory against Manchester City, Villas-Boas's side lost ground with the weekend draw at Wigan. Victory tonight would move Chelsea above Harry Redknapp's side into third, although with Tottenham also harbouring titleambitions, Villas-Boas accepts neither side can afford to lose.
"At the moment, yes, that's the case," he said. "Manchester United the same, Tottenham the same. The pressure on us is fair. We wanted to be closer to the league leaders. Last weekend wasn't dramatic but we have to show the same level of performance as we did against Wolves, Valencia and Newcastle."
Tottenham V Chelsea
Odds Home 13-8; Draw 5-2, Away 9-5.
Kick-off Today, 8pm (Sky Sports 1, 7.30pm)
Team news Harry Redknapp hopes Emmanuel Adebayor will be fit despite picking up a foot injury. Jermain Defoe misses out, while Aaron Lennon is nursing a hamstring tear. Gareth Bale is highly doubtful. David Luiz is out with a knee problem but Ramires should be back.