Andre Villas-Boas feels the tie is well and truly alive, pointing to a couple of defensive errors and profligacy in front of goal as reasons for us trailing Napoli at half-time in the tie.
Juan Mata had volleyed us into a 27th minute lead at the Stadio San Paolo, only for a quick double from Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani to put us behind before the break, with Lavezzi snatching a third against the run of play in the second half to consign us to defeat.
That decisive goal came at a time when we had been pressing for an equaliser, yet Villas-Boas believes we are in store for an exciting second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 21, in which a 2-0 win would see us through to the quarter-finals.
‘It is a negative result of course, but a result we are sure we can turn around at the Bridge due to the amount of chances we had during the game,’ the manager said.
‘Being more clinical in front of goal was the difference, both teams with the same amount of opportunities, a very open game for the Champions League, end to end but Napoli found that efficiency we didn’t find. We had big chances with Ramires, David Luiz and Didier in the end and we paid the heavy toll of a couple of mistakes that we did, while Napoli made the most of those opportunities.
‘There was balance until we conceded the two goals. Napoli were well motivated and we suffered two goals we should not have. In my opinion we can be confident because we created chances and if we do the same in the return match we have all possibilities to go through.’
To be successful, we would have to join a list of just three sides to have come back from two goals down to progress at this knockout stage of the Champions League. Hearing of the statistic, Villas-Boas simply responded: ‘I want to be the fourth team.’ He will have to make plans for the second leg without John Terry, who it was confirmed before kick-off will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday and be out for upwards of a month.
‘I think four weeks would be excellent. We will have to wait to see tomorrow how the operation goes and hopefully the player can return in that frame of time. Normally it’s four or six weeks,’ he admitted.
‘Without John we are missing a very important player for the team and have suffered a lot of goals recently, contrary to what was happening at the beginning of January. We have full belief in these players and have to continue to work to get it right [but] I think we have to focus on reorganising this relationship between the back four. We have to solve these mistakes at the back so that you can profit better from the opportunities you have and the goals you score.’
Villas-Boas also discussed his decision to leave out Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien, a trio of players with huge experience in Europe’s premier club competition.’The decision was made today,’ he explained. ‘Ashley had two days training and we decided to start with Bosingwa, a very similar team to the one that played against Man United with Ramires in for Essien and Didier for Fernando in a 4-2-3-1.
‘Ashley was a difficult decision taken yesterday. I am sure from tomorrow’s training onwards he will continue to fight for his position as he normally does. It’s his position to take and nothing else.
‘[Lampard and Essien] was technical decisions. In the end it would be fantastic if we win the game, any explanation is useless given the result of the game.
‘Regarding the formation and introducing Mata behind the striker, with the two sitting midfielders we had, they were chosen on the basis of two hard-working midfielders sitting in front of the defence. Lamps can do it but it’s the decision we took, not with the objective of goals but on the other side, covering for the attacks Napoli have.
‘Those on the pitch have been doing magnificently well and that’s why the choice was taken. We can continue to count on these players to help the team. They will be up for selection like any other time.
‘We had a conversation, with Ashley and Frank. Normally through the players they are and the experience they have, they felt they could help the team which is perfectly understandable. Ashley had the opportunity to come on through Bosingwa’s injury and Lamps later on in the game. They were disappointed but it’s a decision they have to accept and we move on.’
We must now move on quickly with attentions turning back to Barclays Premier League football this weekend. Bolton Wanderers are visitors to Stamford Bridge and Villas-Boas will see three points as a must.