Villas-boas plays down fatigue fears as Chelsea see red again
ANDRE Villas-Boas is confident Chelsea will not pay the price for playing for two gruelling hours with 10 men in the past week when they visit Valencia in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The Blues will travel to Spain tomorrow having spent 124 of their last 210 minutes on the field with a man disadvantage, hardly ideal preparation for what is expected to be the toughest of their Group E assignments.
Alex’s dismissal in Wednesday night’s Carling Cup penalty shootout win over Fulham and an injury to Daniel Sturridge forced manager Villas-Boas to introduce John Terry and Frank Lampard, who he had been hoping to rest.
That had a knock-on effect for Saturday’s 4-1 Barclays Premier League victory over Swansea, with Petr Cech the only survivor from the midweek XI, while Lampard was left on the bench to demonstrate that, at 33, he is being held back more and more for the big games.
Villas-Boas was clearly keen to avoid further fatigue but Fernando Torres put paid to that when he inexplicably lunged at Mark Gower 10 minutes after opening the scoring with a trademark finish.
His manager played down the impact Chelsea’s recent indiscipline might have at the Mestalla.
“It should be okay and nothing to worry about,” Villas-Boas said.
“It’s also early beginnings in the league.”
Yet, the Portuguese conceded the importance of freshening up his side. “I think the decisions were mainly based on the fact that we played 120 minutes on Wednesday,” he said.
“We sent nine players fresh to the pitch that didn’t play on Wednesday and I think this has an impact. It’s important to have squad rotation.”
Ironically, Spain striker Torres’s red card therefore makes him more likely to start on Wednesday as he only played 39 minutes, was not involved at all against Fulham, and is now banned for the next three Premier League games.
So Didier Drogba’s return from a sickening head injury could hardly be more timely, the Ivory Coast star coming off the bench to net Chelsea’s fourth goal and his first of the season.
Villas-Boas said: “We have four wonderful strikers and all of them have been performing very, very well – Lukaku, Nico, Didier and Fernando.
“All of them compete for a place in this 4-3-3 that we privilege,” he said.
Torres’s goal came in between two goals from Brazilian international Ramires which were followed by Ashley Williams’s consolation and that comeback goal for Drogba.