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VILLAS-BOAS: TIGHT AT THE TOP


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Andre Villas-Boas cannot recall Ramires for the west London derby but the manager is not short oF options if does choose to change the team…

Squad news

Ramires's recovery from a knee injury suffered last weekend has not been rapid enough for him to be available for Sunday's game. The Brazilian is in contention for a return against Everton on Wednesday and failing that, he should be back for the Arsenal game the following Saturday.

Birthday boy Hilario should be available next week but is not clear of his back problem in time for the weekend's derby.

Having made half-a-dozen changes for the big win over Genk on Wednesday,Andre Villas-Boas will have no reservations about rotating his selection again either for the QPR game or further in the future.

'We were able to make six changes to the team and were able to perform how we did and not lose our consistency in terms of play and result, and this is what gratifies the technical staff,' the manager says.

'The talent is so immense that we are able to change those players and still perform up to that level. That shows the kind of commitment and the kind of squad at our disposal.

'When changes like that happen and you have that kind of performance, you have to take that into account so everybody is competing for places. At the moment the minutes played by the players this season are spread out more or less in an even way, and this reflects the depth of our squad. We are able to choose from any 11 or 18 and keep the same level of performance and the same result.'

Villas-Boas does however acknowledge that there are some with less playing time than the bulk of the squad.

'A couple of players still fall short and compared with last year, playing time has fallen short for Josh McEachran, but it is due to more midfield competitiveness and numbers than last year. His talent is enough to play for the team but it is down to a question of choice when everybody is up to the top of their form. I have just been choosing the other way but it doesn't mean that Josh's future won't be at Chelsea because I believe it will be.

'It is 26 players and just 11 playing and everybody with less playing time wants to play more and Salomon Kalou is no exception,' he adds.

'He is training well and is competitive and he showed against Genk that he can play a part for his team and he just has to continue to compete.'

On facing QPR

Sunday will be the first occasion Villas-Boas has sent a team out to face one managed by Neil Warnock but the Portuguese has previously met the Sheffield-born Rangers boss at a Premier League managers' meeting.

'Neil Warnock is a person with great charisma, great personality and when he got Queen's Park Rangers promoted in that difficult situation it was fantastic,' praises Villas-Boas.

'QPR have been able to stamp their way in the Premier League quite comfortably for a club coming up and they are able to compete to a good standard, so it is going to be a difficult game. It is a tight ground with a lot of emotions and I respect the job he is doing because he brings that charisma to the team.'

In other news

Chelsea head into this weekend hoping we will make it even tighter at the top of the table with Manchester United playing Manchester City ahead of our kick off. While much of the talk this season has been about the Mancunian championship challenge, Villas-Boas doesn't believe it is a two-horse race, and he is not only considering Chelsea as a credible alternative.

'I have not in my short experience of managing or assisting Jose [Mourinho] seen a Premier League so tight as this one, or one with so many good teams.

'I think it is more competitive than the other years Chelsea won, and that is not taking merit from what the club has already done because in the 2005/06 Premiership win it was nine wins in the first nine games, and the record of points was beaten in the 2004/05 season, but I am saying more teams look like being in contention.

'Tottenham keep surprising everybody,' he points out. 'But with the amount of talent that they have and the humble nature of what they are saying and the values of what they are doing, they are a competitive team. They will never put themselves across as title contenders because nobody likes that kind of pressure.'

On this weekend's fixtures, the manager considers it too early in the season for the results to have special significance.

'If these games should happen with these distances between teams in March or April I would say it would be a big opportunity, but not at the moment.

'Anything that happens between us and the Manchester clubs won't dictate what is going to happen in March and April. From being five points from Man United we are just one point away so things have changed dramatically in a couple of weeks and there is still no pattern to how the table is going to behave regarding the future.

'Let the Manchester clubs play each other and see what happens. What is more important for us is to get the three points from our game. Without us doing that nothing that happens in Manchester will be important for us.'

Villas-Boas has addressed reported comments by our new goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, currently on-loan at Atletico Madrid, about the physical condition ofPetr Cech.

'A statement has come out from Courtois's agent and the situation has been addressed,' he says.

'He has been misled on his information and he has been unfortunate with his quotes because he felt the other way around.'

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The England Under 21 team's manager and the man just announced to take charge of the GB football team at the 2012 Olympics, Stuart Pearce, and Gareth Southgate, the FA's head of elite development, visited Villas-Boas at Cobham on Friday and the Chelsea boss will have no problem should Pearce want to call on any of our players next summer in the pursuit of gold medals.

'Stuart has to make his selection and I hope he can select freely. It will affect the players he selects and it will affect the clubs and managers but he just has to do his job and I hope he can select accordingly for Team GB to reach the expectations of an Olympics playing at home.

'I think the Olympics reflects the excellence of sport and everybody should be proud to be involved. It is a special event.'

Copy from :http://www.chelseafc.com/page/LatestNews/0,,10268~2489636,00.html

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