CHELSEA manager Andre Villas-Boas has dismissed suggestions of player unrest, insisting his whole squad is firmly behind him as he prepares for tonight’s season-defining match.
Striker Didier Drogba called on his team-mates to rally behind the rookie boss following Saturday’s 3-0 win at Newcastle, in which midfielder Frank Lampard appeared unhappy to be taken off. Out-of-favour pair Nicolas Anelka and Alex have submitted transfer requests, having seemingly accepted they have little future under the former Porto coach, and seem destined to leave next month.
But Villas-Boas is adamant a squad renowned for strong personalities is united behind his changes as they teeter on the brink of their earliest Champions League exit ever.
“The players are happy with what we are doing, and want to improve results,” he said. “You saw great team spirit at Newcastle and focus, concentration and ambition. To win where a lot of other teams have lost points, and score three against one of the best defences, gives this team a lot of credit.”
Striker Daniel Sturridge repeatedly backed his manager and methods, and Villas-Boas said all of his players had been equally receptive to attempts to change the team’s style, despite mixed recent results.
“We have had our ups and downs in terms of results, but not in terms of performance,” he added. “When we are playing well we are nearer to winning the game, and that makes you believe in what you are doing.”
A goalless draw would suffice, but realistically Chelsea know they must win against the in-form Spaniards if they are to avoid their worst Champions League campaign since it began in 1992.
Previous managers in the Roman Abramovich era have been sacked for less, but Villas-Boas is confident he retains the long-term support of the Russian owner regardless of this evening’s outcome.