x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Villas-Boas aims for a flying start to life at the Bridge

West Brom match is 'must win' in eyes of the Chelsea manager, who does not want to lose early ground on Manchester City and United.

Andre Villas-Boas, left, talks to his captain John Terry in training. Today's match is the manager's first at Stamford Bridge.
Andre Villas-Boas, left, talks to his captain John Terry in training. Today's match is the manager's first at Stamford Bridge.

After just one game, it is a little early in the season to be talking of "must-win" games, but Andre Villas-Boas did just that ahead of Chelsea's home match against West Bromwich Albion.

The club's new manager believes three points are imperative from both today's encounter and the next match at Stamford Bridge against Norwich City, after Chelsea dropped two points in their opener at Stoke City.

Villas-Boas acknowledged his side could not afford to fall further behind the two Manchester clubs - United and City, who both won their openers - before the end of the month.

"We have two games at home that we must do everything in our power to get three points out of, because it's seven points [in total] and can get us into a good position," he said. "It's two games at home and you have to win them."

Chelsea were unfortunate not to take maximum points at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday but the game also demonstrated why Villas-Boas is so keen to add more creativity to his midfield. He hinted on Thursday the club would not be held to ransom over Tottenham Hotspur's Luka Modric, who remains their No 1 transfer target.

Juan Mata, the World Cup-winning Spanish winger, is another possible signing, amid reports Chelsea have offered Valencia £27 million (Dh162m) for his services. Bids for Porto pair Alvaro Pereira and Joao Moutinho have also been mooted, while Genk's Kevin de Bruyne this week revealed talks had taken place between his representative and Chelsea.

Today's match against West Brom will be Villas-Boas's first at home. All the club's pre-season matches were away from Stamford Bridge and Villas-Boas said it felt good to be back at the stadium where he spent three years helping Jose Mourinho mastermind the most successful period in Chelsea's history.

He again faces plenty of selection dilemmas, most notably whether to start Hilario or Ross Turnbull in goal following Petr Cech's injury.

"I have to judge everything and be sensitive to that of course," said Villas-Boas, who added Romelu Lukaku to his phalanx of forwards on Thursday. "It's just good to have this availability."

As well as being another landmark fixture in the fledgling career of Villas-Boas, the game will also be a poignant one for assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo, who was sacked by West Brom in February.

The corresponding fixture last season was Di Matteo's first match as a Premier League manager and it proved to be a chastening experience as Chelsea romped to a 6-0 win. "It will be emotional for him for sure to see people that he was very, very attached to," Villas-Boas added of the former Chelsea midfielder.

Other matches

Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers

Steve Kean, the Blackburn manager believes new Serbian signing Radosav Petrovic can make a big impression. The 6ft 4ins, midfielder, right, could make his debut today against Aston Villa.“He’s an imposing figure but he can score goals,” said Kean. Centre-backs Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba should play today after missing last week’s defeat by Wolves. Villa have no injury concerns for Alex McLeish’s first home game as manager.

6pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 5

Everton v QPR

Defender Seamus Coleman is Everton’s only absentee as they belatedly start their Premier League campaign at home to newcomers Queens Park Rangers. The right-back is sidelined with torn ankle ligaments and is likely to be out for several weeks. Neil Warnock’s visitors, who were trounced 4-0 at home to Bolton in their opener, are without Kieron Dyer, who picked up an injury in that match, and veteran defender Clint Hill received a red card.

6pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 4

Swansea City v Wigan Athletic

Wigan are likely to be without defender Steve Gohouri for the trip to Swansea as he continues his recovery from a calf problem. Manager Roberto Martinez may be tempted to start with star striker Hugo Rodallega despite admitting he is not yet 100 per cent fit after Copa America duty with Colombia, while Antolin Alcaraz, who reached the final with Paraguay, could come into contention. Captain Gary Monk is Swansea’s only injury absence.

6pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 7