AVB: 'December is key'

Under-fire Portuguese manager picks December fixtures as key to Chelsea's domestic and European fortunes.

    The Blues kick off their festive campaign with a trip to Newcastle, a visit by Man City and a crunch Champions League clash against Valencia [GALLO/GETTY]

    Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has targeted December's fixtures as being key to easing the unfamiliar anxiety at Stamford Bridge after a third defeat in four home matches.

    Tuesday's 2-0 League Cup quarter-final defeat by Liverpool came hot on the heels of an English Premier League loss to the same club and a 5-3 defeat by Arsenal to make fans twitchy at a ground that had been a fortress for much of the Roman Abramovich era.

    "For our Premier League challenge to be alive we need to make the most of the December fixtures," the manager said on the club website.

    "We play most of the top teams and that is our challenge for December. March and April can be as decisive, but as we play the top teams it's a fact."

    Rocky road

    Lying fifth in the league, they face a tricky trip to fourth-placed Newcastle United this weekend before hosting leaders Manchester City and travelling to third-placed Tottenham Hotspur later in the month.

    To make things harder, they also host Valencia in a final Champions League group game aiming to avoid an early exit in the competition that Abramovich values more than any other.

    "The Champions League is a life and death situation and we will need to up the tempo and play with desire," Portuguese Villas-Boas said.

    In recent seasons a home match would be a comforting prospect for Chelsea fans, who had until now not experienced back-to-back defeats at Stamford Bridge since Abramovich bought the London club in 2003.

    Villas-Boas can feel the tension in the air after overseeing the club's worst start to a season since the Russian's arrival.

    "You can feel Stamford Bridge has become anxious when we play at home but we need their full support, it's the only way you can build the right atmosphere," he said.

    "We have two big games at home now (Valencia and City) where we need the fans right behind us.

    "Away from home we've been more solid, statistically and as a team. At the moment, when we play at home we've not been good enough, we need to get our fans behind us."

    Villas-Boas has said he has Abramovich's backing despite the poor run, making media reports that his job is under threat seem premature, but if he does not turn things round in December then that speculation over his future will only grow.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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