Chelsea Vs West Bromwich Albion, Sat 20 Aug 2011

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Football News

Andre Villas-Boas insists Chelsea must win their back-to-back home games with West Brom and Norwich if they are to be considered serious Barclays Premier League title contenders this season.

The Blues were held to a goalless draw in Sunday's opening-weekend clash at Stoke, while Manchester United and Manchester City both won to open up the earliest of two-point leads on their other main championship rival.

And although there are still 37 games to go, new Chelsea boss Villas-Boas acknowledged his side could not afford to fall further behind the two Manchester clubs before the end of the month.

The Portuguese, who has made regaining the league title the top priority of his first season in charge, said: "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.

"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 that the club would not be held to ransom over Tottenham's Luka Modric, who remains the Blues' number one transfer target.

Spain winger Juan Mata is another possible signing, amid reports the Blues have offered Valencia #27million 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.

But Villas-Boas will have to make do against West Brom in what will be his first home game as Blues boss.

All the club's pre-season matches were away from Stamford Bridge and Villas-Boas admitted 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.

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

Fernando Torres surely did enough against Stoke to keep his place, although Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka both boast impressive records against West Brom.

"I have to judge everything and be sensitive to that of course," said Villas-Boas, who yesterday added Romelu Lukaku to his phalanx of forwards.

"It's just good to have this availability."

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson is relishing pitting his years of experience against Chelsea's youthful new boss.

Amazingly, Hodgson, at the age of 64, has been managing for longer than 33-year-old Villas-Boas has been alive.

Hodgson is convinced Villas-Boas will be a success at Chelsea - but he hopes that will start after Albion have played them at Stamford Bridge.

He said: "For someone who started his own coaching career as young as I did, it would be foolish to start discussing people's ages when they start new jobs.

"I know Chelsea are very happy with their appointment and I am sure he will do a very good job for them. I have met him in the past. He came to see us for a short while when I was at Fulham but it was for a very short time.

"At the age of 33 I had just won my second championship in Sweden with my first one at 29. To be fair I was doing it in Sweden where the players were part-time professionals.

"I wasn't doing it at Porto and Chelsea, so I am not making a comparison with Andre Villas-Boas as he has been in the Champions League and is working for one of the most prestigious clubs in Europe.

"Whether or not starting out as a manager in your 30s is the best way of surviving into your 60s I don't know.

"I've been lucky but I do not know whether I would be pushing people into top jobs if their aim is to have a 35 or 36 year career. We all know that the hiring and firing gets greater every year."

The Baggies have a major doubt over striker Peter Odemwingie while winger Jerome Thomas will definitely be missing.

The pair sat out last weekend's opening match of the season against Manchester United and Odemwingie is battling to shake off an ankle injury while Thomas has hip and thigh problems.

Right-back Steven Reid, who was forced off with a leg injury against United, is fit.

Central defender Gareth McAuley, who has been struggling with illness, could be on the bench against the Blues after coming through a midweek reserve game.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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West Bromwich Albion
Petr Cech
Jerome Thomas
Didier Drogba
European News
Nicolas Anelka
Premier League
Fernando Torres
Ross Turnbull
Steven Reid
Gareth McAuley
Luka Modric
Peter Odemwingie

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