Chelsea and Tottenham were set for yet another transfer tug-of-war today after Andre Villas-Boas admitted his interest in signing Gary Cahill.
Tomorrow night sees the two clubs renew their on-field rivalry when the Blues travel to White Hart Lane for a game Villas-Boas admitted his side cannot afford to lose if they are to keep their realistic Barclays Premier League title hopes alive.
They could then renew hostilities when the January transfer window opens, with Chelsea manager Villas-Boas and Spurs counterpart Harry Redknapp both confirmed admirers of Bolton defender Cahill.
Redknapp narrowly missed out on the England star last summer and recently admitted he was considering trying again to sign him next month.
Villas-Boas this afternoon denied reports Bolton had accepted a £7million bit from Chelsea but confirmed Cahill, who is out of contract next summer, was a potential target.
"We are aware of Gary's contractual situation," Villas-Boas said.
"His talent is never in question.
"He is an interesting player for the club."
Chelsea are short of experienced cover in central defence, with Alex having been banished from the first-team squad after handing in a transfer request.
Villas-Boas, who said he had yet to receive any offers for the Brazilian, added: "We have taken a decision this season regarding Alex - a transfer request accepted - but we haven't decided yet on what we are going to do with the Alex situation.
"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."
Tottenham and Chelsea have already clashed twice this year on the transfer front, with the former coming out on top on both occasions.
Spurs won the race for Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar in January, while they rejected several bids from the Blues for star playmaker Luka Modric during the summer.
Villas-Boas admitted for the first time today that the club had made a decision on their January transfer targets.
"We have been identifying targets that might strengthen the team," he said.
"But we have to decide who we go for."
With almost half the Premier League season gone, it is becoming evident Chelsea's squad is not strong enough to provide a sustained challenge to leaders Manchester City.
They will kick-off at White Hart Lane tomorrow 12 points adrift of top spot if City beat Stoke tonight and Villas-Boas conceded his side could not afford another defeat.
"At the moment, yes, that's the case," he said.
"(Manchester) United the same, Tottenham the same.
"City went through these difficult games and are beatable, but they're also competent.
"You wouldn't expect them to lose many games."
Villas-Boas must decide whether to drop Frank Lampard for another big game, with Ramires fit to return from a leg knock.
Chelsea, who enjoyed a long unbeaten record against Tottenham during the 1990s and early 2000s, have not won at White Hart Lane since 2005.
With third-placed Spurs arguably stronger now than they have been since the 1960s, ending that sequence might have proven tougher than ever.
But with Redknapp facing injury concerns over Ledley King, Gareth Bale, Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon, tomorrow could be a good time to visit.
Bale and Lennon would be particularly missed and Villas-Boas said: "Those two are key players, vertical players, quick and explosive who create problems on the flanks, and they are big parts of Redknapp's philosophy.
"But I'm sure Harry has enough solutions to turn the situation around."
Indeed, Redknapp's stock has never been higher and he is now the firm favourite to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager next summer.
Villas-Boas said: "He has pedigree, experience, knowledge.
"At the moment, England are led by one of the most successful managers of all time in football, so you are in pretty good hands.
"The decision regarding their future is not for me to decide, but I'd say that Capello is more than competent to take England to the highest level. Not saying Redknapp, if chosen, is not."
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