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Chelsea V Bolton at Stamford Bridge : Match Preview
Villas-Boas backs defenders to fill Terry void
Under-fire Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas is confident Gary Cahill and David Luiz can form a solid defensive partnership during the absence of influential captain John Terry.
Villas-Boas' position has come under intense scrutiny over the last few weeks after his team dropped to fifth in the Barclays Premier League and edged close to a Champions League exit after a 3-1 defeat against Napoli in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday night.
To make matters worse for the Portuguese, he will now be without Terry for up to six weeks after he aggravated a long-standing knee injury.
With Jose Bosingwa also sidelined, Villas-Boas will have no other option than to put his faith in new signing Cahill and the erratic Luiz at the back during a period that is likely to determine whether the 34-year-old becomes the sixth manager to be fired by owner Roman Abramovich.
The early signs do not look good. The team have conceded seven goals during the three games when Cahill and Luiz have started together in the centre of defence, but Villas-Boas has faith in the duo.
"At the moment we have a new partnership that we are trying to fine tune to be more stable at the back, like we were in January," Villas-Boas said.
"Both of them are very extrovert, Gary speaks a lot, organises a lot. It is not about communication.
"It just takes time, it's a new partnership and you have to get used to the person next to you. "I am happy with Gary. He has been excellent in the games he has played."
Cahill, who will line up against his old club Bolton on Saturday, has told his manager not to expect too much too quickly, however.
"There have been changes made so it's not something that will click right in to place straight away," Cahill told Chelsea TV.
"It's different. The full-backs have changed so I'm not going to lie and say it's fantastically easy.
"We have had some sticky results of late and I have been plonked straight in the middle of it all so it's been difficult, but the more work we do on the training ground the better it will be."
Fernando Torres missed training on Thursday due to illness but is expected to be fit, while Juan Mata is available despite suffering a suspected broken finger against Napoli.
Bolton defender Tim Ream is keen to play down comparisons between himself and Cahill. United States international Ream joined Wanderers last month from the New York Red Bulls and while he does not mind "filling shoes" now Cahill has departed, the 24-year-old is determined to show that he is more than just a potential replacement for the England man.
"You have got to try to put that sort of thing out of your mind," Ream, who made his Bolton debut in last weekend's 2-0 FA Cup victory at Millwall, told www.bwfc.co.uk.
"You have got to concentrate on the job you've got on the field and what the club have bought me to do.
"If I'm filling shoes then fine, but everyone is their own player. "Obviously Gary is a very good player and has made a big move to Chelsea but for my part I'm here to contribute to the team and push the guys for a starting spot."
Bolton could come up against another of their former players in forward Daniel Sturridge, who spent the second half of last season on loan with the Trotters.
Midfielder Mark Davies has been nursing a hamstring problem but should be available for the game, while striker Marvin Sordell is eligible for selection again after being cup-tied for the Millwall match.
Defender Joe Riley is a doubt due to a foot injury and forward Kevin Davies, who sustained medial ligament damage in his knee in the league defeat to Wigan on February 11, is unlikely to be ready to make his return to action yet.
Chelsea V Bolton - view commentary, squad, and statictics of the game live.
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