Chelsea V Birmingham at Stamford Bridge : Match Preview

18 February 2012 12:09
AVB demands full focus

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas wants to see his side produce a much-improved display in the FA Cup against Birmingham following the lacklustre defeat to Everton.

The 2-0 loss extended their winless streak in the Barclays Premier League to four matches as the pressure continued to build on the Portuguese.

However, his position appeared to strengthen on Friday after Guus Hiddink reportedly agreed to become 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 intensified this week that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was considering sending another SOS to Hiddink 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 appears to have waited too long, following claims Hiddink had agreed £12.5million, 18-month deal to take charge of mega-rich Russian club Anzhi.

Defeat in Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie with Birmingham is unthinkable for Villas-Boas, who will be demanding a response from Saturday's "worst performance of the season" at Goodison Park.

He said: "Full focus will be needed and full determination, which will be the exact opposite of what happened against Everton."

Chelsea's squad should be strong enough to see off npower Championship Birmingham without talismanic duo John Terry and Didier Drogba, who are set to be held back for Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg at Napoli.

Drogba has been missed in the past eight weeks while on African Nations Cup duty, with Fernando Torres still failing to score despite starting every game.

"Didier back in contention will give further competition for Fernando and (Romelu) Lukaku,"

Villas-Boas said. "For the player that he is, he is as strong as anybody." With Drogba in fine form at the African Nations Cup, the match could be Torres' last chance to keep his place for Tuesday's game.

Villas-Boas said: "It hasn't been happening for him but, as he continues to try to help the team, there will be a goal from him."

Meanwhile, Chelsea have reportedly pulled out of the race to sign Lille midfielder Eden Hazard. The Blues had been strongly linked with a January move for the Belgian star, who was this week tipped to make a summer switch to Tottenham.

Birmingham boss Chris Hughton has lent his backing to Villas-Boas. He believes the former Porto manager has the pedigree and quality to overcome the current difficult transitional period he was confronted with when taking charge last summer.

Hughton said: "It was always going to be a tough job, and it will always continue to be a tough job, because the pressures of managing at the top end are certainly different to anywhere else.

"The expectations are higher, Chelsea are expected to win the majority of their games and that comes with the territory.

"What you don't do is become manager of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, the two Manchester clubs etc, without being a quality manager.

"Villa-Boas has got the job because of his CV. It is a transitional period when he has come in and there have been some difficulties for him with that.

"But I'm quite sure that given time he will put his own stamp on the club and the team. I certainly feel he will turn their fortunes around."

Hughton also believes that Villa-Boas will rise above reports that some of the current Chelsea squad are constantly texting former manager Jose Mourinho.

He said: "You can see and read anything. You can only work off what you know are facts and the facts are he is the manager of Chelsea and it is his responsibility to do the best job that he can.

"It is part and parcel of the game, whether texts, Facebook or Twitter. The modern communications are very much part of the game.

"What I see in the present day Chelsea manager, is a manager who is very focused on his team."

Hughton has guided Birmingham to a 13 game unbeaten run and into the Championship play-off positions and insists the pressure will all be on Chelsea.

He said: "This will be a massive test but, whichever way it goes, it is certainly one we will enjoy. "It will be great experience for the younger players, going to a Premier League team, a team with the quality they have had, certainly in recent years.

"The plus for us is no-one expects us to win. They are the class Premier League side and we are a team doing very well in the Championship.

"It is important we go there and give a good account of ourselves but the pressure is certainly on Chelsea to win the game."

Blues will be without injured strikers Nikola Zigic and Marlon King with Adam Rooney set to lead the attack.

But they are giving a trial to former Hull striker Caleb Folan who left Major Soccer League side Colorado Rapids at the start of this month.

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Source: PA