AVB defiant as pressure grows on Blues

Under-pressure Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has revealed he had to explain his team selection to Roman Abramovich’s advisers after the club’s 3-1 defeat to Napoli.

Villas-Boas left out experienced campaigners Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien for the Champions League last 16 clash in Italy, preferring instead to field Raul Meireles, Jose Bosingwa and Florent Malouda.

The move backfired as the Blues went on to suffer the first-leg loss which nudged them close to the exit of a competition Abramovich craves.

The team selection caused apparent disharmony, with Lampard reportedly unhappy at his omission.

The Portuguese bullishly defended his actions yesterday, however, but did admit that he had to explain his team selection to Abramovich’s inner circle.

“I have not spoken to him (Abramovich), I have spoken to persons near to him,” Villas-Boas said.

“He is disappointed about the result and (was) asking questions about how we set up the team and they were duly explained.

“I spoke to the people close to the owner to transmit the message, people like (club director) Michael Emenalo. That is the normal way we communicate. He just wants to know the thought process.

“I don’t have any regrets regarding the team selection... It was completely right.”

Chelsea’s poor recent form — they have won just four of their last 14 games — has led to speculation about Villas-Boas’ future.

The Portuguese, who took over from two-time Champions League-winning coach Carlo Ancelotti last summer, admitted yesterday he had made “a lot of mistakes” during his tenure.

“Thirteen mistakes — seven draws and six defeats,” he said with a smile.

But crucially for him, he thinks he still has the support of Abramovich.

“Yes, of course,” Villas-Boas said, when asked whether he still retained the backing of the Russian, who has fired five managers since taking over in 2003.

Rafael Benitez has been touted as a possible short-term successor to Villas-Boas if Abramovich decides to sack his current boss, but the Spaniard’s agent yesterday denied any contact had been made with the former Liverpool boss.

There is some sympathy for Villas-Boas’ predicament as he has inherited a squad of ageing stars, some of whom many think are past their best.

Regardless of their performances, the Portuguese insists he is the only one who should be blamed for the slump which has seen the team drop to fifth in the Premier League.

He said: “There is one person who takes responsibility. That is myself. The players don’t have to take it and they shouldn’t.”

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