Villas-Boas defends team selection after Napoli defeat
Andre Villas-Boas insisted Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole did not start Chelsea's Champions League clash at Napoli for footballing reasons after watching his side lurch to another defeat.
England stars Lampard and Cole were reportedly angry at being left out of the line-up for last night's last-16 first leg, fuelling speculation of a growing rift between Blues boss Villas-Boas and members of his squad.
Villas-Boas admitted Lampard and Cole disagreed with his decision and that debate over his relationship with senior players - as well as the security of his job - was inevitable.
He said: "I think there's a normal creation of opinion from different parties, from the media and the fans, and from exactly the people who matter in the business - the owner and the manager.
"Whatever perspective comes out, that really doesn't matter to me."
He added: "I had a conversation with Ashley and Frank.
"The players that they are and the players with the experience they have, they felt they could have helped the team. That's perfectly understandable.
"Of course, they were disappointed but they were decisions they have to accept and move on."
Villas-Boas described Lampard's omission from yet another big game as tactical and Cole's as the result of not being fully fit following a calf problem.
He added: "Whatever explanation I give you, in the end it would be a fantastic explanation if we'd won the game.
"Any explanation is now useless given the result of the game, so there's no point."
Villas-Boas admitted "speculation" over his own future would intensify after a fifth successive match without a win.
The Portuguese has repeatedly insisted he enjoys the "full" backing of Roman Abramovich but the billionaire Blues owner's confidence in his young manager would have taken yet another hit last night.
Chelsea produced their latest defensive horror show to lose 3-1 in Italy and leave themselves in real danger of crashing out.
Villas-Boas admitted his side once again missed injured captain John Terry, who is set to undergo a procedure on the knee injury that has plagued him in 2012 and will be out for up to six weeks.
That will see him miss up to three Champions League matches, possibly two in the FA Cup and several crucial Premier League games.
Informed a two-goal first-leg deficit had been overturned only three times in Champions League history, Villas-Boas was defiant.
"I want us to be the fourth team," he said.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech said: "It will be tough but we will fight till we die."
He added of Villas-Boas: "We know he keeps working hard for us. He prepares every game with 100% commitment and we appreciate it as players.
"But if you have players on the pitch making mistakes, he can't help it."
Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri was taking nothing for granted.
"Chelsea, on their ground, they can easily score two goals," he said. "So, we need to go there with the right mentality.
"It's just a shame we didn't make it 4-1. We had opportunities with (Ezequiel) Lavezzi, (Edinson) Cavani, (Christian) Maggio, and we should've taken them."