No fears for Drogba, insists AVB

Andre Villas-Boas is confident Didier Drogba’s latest African Nations Cup heartache will not spill over into his Chelsea performances.

Drogba was back in London yesterday, having been given leave to return to his native Ivory Coast after their shattering final defeat to Zambia on Sunday.

The 33-year-old remains revered in his homeland, despite another penalty miss which cost his country the chance of Nations Cup glory.

Drogba, who also failed from the spot in the 2006 shoot-out loss against Egypt, blazed high over the crossbar during normal time on Sunday before Ivory Coast went on to lose in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

The veteran striker otherwise had a fine tournament, finishing joint top scorer with three goals to maintain the form that saw him oust Fernando Torres from the Chelsea team towards the end of last year.

With Torres having failed so far to find the net during his team-mate’s eight-week absence, Drogba will doubtless be expecting to walk straight into the side in Tuesday’s Champions League game at Napoli.

Manager Villas-Boas was sure yesterday that Drogba would quickly move on from Sunday’s disappointment.

“I think so and [he’ll be] ready to help the team,” he said. “A player of his quality and so much involved with Chelsea in the past will always help. In December, he had an extremely good impact. He is a major player for us.”

Meanwhile, the Chelsea boss revealed Gary Cahill missed last Saturday’s Barclays Premier League defeat at Everton through illness, not because of his performance in the previous week’s 3-3 draw against Manchester United.

January signing Cahill is set to start today’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Birmingham, with captain John Terry unlikely to be risked following his recovery from a knee injury.

“Gary was ill all of last week,” Villas-Boas said. “He only trained once. That’s why he didn’t have that continuity that he expected for the game against Everton. Nothing else, because his performance was excellent against United.”

Villas-Boas’ position has been reportedly under threat of late due to Chelsea’s dismal form but his hold on his job was strengthened yesterday after Guus Hiddink was confirmed as the new manager of Anzhi Makhachkala.

The spectre of Hiddink has been hanging over Villas-Boas for three months after the Dutchman left the Turkey post following their failure to qualify for this summer’s European Championship.

Speculation Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was considering sending another SOS to Hiddink intensified this week amid reports senior players at Stamford Bridge wanted their former caretaker boss to be brought in to replace the Portuguese.

But if Abramovich had planned to do that, he waited too long, with Hiddink yesterday putting pen to paper on an 18-month deal to take charge of mega-rich Russian club Anzhi.

The 65-year-old said: “At the end of last year we had long discussions with Anzhi and that’s why I have now made a prompt decision. I’m glad to accept such an opportunity, to work not only with the football team but also with my friends who invited me here.”

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