MATA AVAILABLE, TORRES A DOUBT AND BOSINGWA OUT
Andre Villas-Boas has mixed injury news ahead of the weekend's game with Bolton Wanderers.
Definitely missing are Jose Bosingwa, who limped off on Tuesday with a muscle injury, and John Terry, who underwent surgery on his knee yesterday with his absence likely to take between five and six weeks.
'John Terry is out after his knee operation and he is going to be out for five to six weeks, hopefully sooner. There is a possibility he can be back sooner so he starts his rehabilitation today and is out of the game,' Villas-Boas reported.
'He is a player we badly miss, of massive importance to us. He is a leader and had great performances for us this season, even through adversity [when he was] already struggling with his knee injury, and when we had only two central defenders and David Luiz and John had that run. He was amazing and is badly missed.'
In Terry's absence Villas-Boas is likely to continue to put his trust in David Luiz and Gary Cahill at centre-back, and he hopes this new pairing will quickly develop an understanding having struggled in Italy.
'At the moment it is a new partnership. We lost Bosingwa to a muscle injury, and we have Ivanovic and Ferreira at right-back,' he said. 'We have used Ivanovic more often which means a new pairing with Gary and David Luiz which we are trying to fine-tune to be more stable like we were in January.
'I don't think it's about communication, both are very extroverted, Gary speaks a lot and organises the defence.I think it is just takes time as a new partnership to get used to the person next to you.
'[Cahill] has played the games he has to play and is doing excellent. I am very happy with his performances. In the beginning, if he was first available for Norwich with only two training sessions, then January was our best defensive record statistically, so we didn't want to shift the dynamic of the team, and he eventually had his first chance against Man United and did extremely well and has been doing since then.'
The 26-year-old will face his former side on Saturday, and Villas-Boas expects a tougher test than we were given at the Reebok Stadium back in October, when we emerged as 5-1 winners.
'It was in our strongest period of the season in terms of results, the first three or four months were the best,' acknowledged Villas-Boas. 'By that time Bolton's motivation was a bit down due to their results and eventually Owen Coyle turned it around for the better.
'I think it will be a different game now. There is the FA Cup motivation Bolton has and it's going to be completely different. Now we collide against maybe our worst period of the season, but have a willingness to turn things around against Bolton.
'I think the players will go with 100 per cent responsibilities to try to win the game.'
Villas-Boas rates Coyle as a personal friend having studied for his coaching badges with the former Irish international forward.
'Owen is a friend that I respect a lot. He is having a difficult time in the league but last year saved Bolton from relegation with magnificent results and is doing his job in the FA Cup which is good for him and the team,' said the Portuguese.
Having given up the chase for the title over the past few weeks, Villas-Boas has highlighted a poor run in October and November as being the period which most damaged our bid. Defeats against Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal and Liverpool in quick succession took leaders Manchester City out of touching distance when victories would have kept us close behind.
'I always go back to those weeks at the end of October as the shift of how things were going for us,' conceded the 34-year-old. ' In five games we lost against QPR, Arsenal, went to Blackburn to win but drew at Genk and lost to Liverpool at home, so from that ambition and desire that we were fighting for the league and strongly looking to fight for the league at QPR in less than three weeks we inverted our chances of winning the league.
'That time had a direct impact on our motivation, and it took us time to solve that. It came at the expense of a defeat against Leverkusen and Liverpool at home in the Carling Cup. We solved it with good results in December and a couple in January.
' I look back at that as a decisive moment in the season and the big lesson might be that in that moment of adversity you have to be aware of extra motivation, extra work, to avoid going into a run of bad results that can compromise your position.
'[At QPR] we believed we would go three points behind because it was the Man City v Man United game, but we went six, nine, 12 in a very short space of time.'
ON HIS OWN FUTURE
Enduring a difficult time with results, Villas-Boas has also had to see rumours of his replacement as manager bandied around the media, yet he insists speculation does not affect him.
'It doesn't affect me at all. Last year [at Porto] I was linked to lots of different clubs, it is the same whenever results don't go, managers get linked with this club,' he said. 'Your strong favourite went to another club so now you choose another and at the moment it is that one.'
He did however take full responsibility for the club's position in the table.
'There is one direction and one person who takes responsibilities - myself,' he confirmed. 'The players don't have to take it and they shouldn't take it. They are top, top players and they know what they can do for the benefit of the team but there is only one person that is responsible which is me.'