Belfast Telegraph

Villas-Boas digging deep to halt Chelsea collapse

By Duncan Bech

Andre Villas-Boas accepts Champions League oblivion beckons if Chelsea are unable to improve on Tuesday night's feeble outing in the Carling Cup.

The Blues' chase for silverware suffered a setback as they exited the cup with a dismal 2-0 defeat by Liverpool, their third loss in four games.

Just as worryingly for Villas-Boas, it was also the third time they had succumbed at Stamford Bridge in four matches.

It does not bode well for next Tuesday's critical Champions League showdown with Valencia, when defeat or the failure to keep a clean sheet in west London will result in the unthinkable.

For a club that covets success in Europe above all else, competing in the Europa League would be a chastening experience.

Such an outcome could spell the end of Villas-Boas' reign at Stamford Bridge and the Portuguese knows a repeat of their Carling Cup display is unacceptable.

“The Champions League is a competition that is life and death and this standard won't be enough,” he said. “We will need to up the tempo and play that game with the ultimate desire.” December is shaping up to be a critical month for Chelsea and Villas-Boas, whose future will have been decided by December 22.

The club's Champions League status will have been determined, as will their ability to mount any meaningful challenge for the Barclays Premier League title.

Fixtures against top four sides Newcastle, at St James' Park on Saturday, Manchester City on December 12 and Tottenham three days before Christmas have the capacity to make or break Chelsea's season.

The club sit 10 points adrift of leaders City. It is a pivotal month that could yet define Villas-Boas' Chelsea stewardship.

“For our Premier League challenge to be alive we need to make the most of our December fixtures,” he said. “If we are able to do that we can get it back on track, not that we can't get back on track after. If we do well in December it will have a major impact

“We recovered two points on our near opponents when we beat Wolves last weekend, which was good.

“But for us to challenge for the Premier League we need to make the most of our December fixtures because we play most of the top teams.

“I'm not a wizard so I can't say for sure what will happen after December. The FA Cup and Champions League come into play next year, so we don't know what will happen in March and April.

“But it's a fact that if we get points from December, it will put our challenge back on track.”

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