Chelsea’s Fernando Torres expected to be axed for Champions League tie

• André Villas-Boas losing patience with striker’s lack of goals
• Didier Drogba will probably play against Napoli on Tuesday


Jamie Jackson

Fernando Torres was taken off at half-time of Chelsea’s 1-1 FA Cup draw with Birmingham on Saturday. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

André Villas-Boas is expected to drop Fernando Torres for Chelsea‘s Champions League tie at Napoli after warning the striker he will not alter the team’s shape or strategy to try to restore the Spaniard’s form.

Torres cost Chelsea £50m last January but has scored just three league goals in 34 appearances. On Saturday Chelsea were fortunate to draw 1-1 with Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge to force an FA Cup fifth-round replay, with Torres taken off at half-time following an unconvincing display. Asked if Villas-Boas would sacrifice the side’s philosophy to help one player, the manager said that he would not and said: “Not on the way I put things together, not in a team basis. He is trying hard. This season shows that he’s had some ups and downs on performance. We had him at a good level at the beginning of the season and at the beginning of January.

“We will continue to push for that level of performance. We have to help the players reach that level of performance and get to the top level. That comes with confidence and for Fernando with goals and he will have to find that eventually, for sure.”

Torres was replaced by Didier Drogba, who only returned in midweek from the Africa Cup of Nations, and Chelsea became more effective in the second half with Daniel Sturridge’s 62nd-minute header cancelling out David Murphy’s opener on 20 minutes. Drogba, who appeared to give a team-talk in the tunnel before the players emerged for the second period, is expected to start in Torres’s place in Naples. Drogba scored three goals for Ivory Coast and also found the net in his last match before departing for the tournament, in a 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa on New Year’s Eve, whereas Torres has not scored since a Champions League group game on 19 October when he managed two in a 5-0 win over Genk.

Regarding the Ivorian’s return, Villas-Boas said: “First, Torres, Drogba and [Romelu] Lukaku will compete in training to be in the team. There’s competition in the striker positions and it will be a battle between the three of them. Drogba increases the level of competition. They are all top, top talents. We need that goal efficiency and we will try and get it one way or another.

“I think everybody is desperate for [Torres] to score. Everybody pushes him, praises him in training and it will come with him getting opportunities. His confidence is low but we will have to continue to persist with our belief in his talent. The belief is the same. The only thing that changes is the level of competition for him and maybe that will be the key. More competition will see him push himself that little bit harder and maybe he will eventually reach his goal and targets.”

Curtis Davies, the Birmingham central defender who marked Torres out of the game and caused him to be substituted, said: “With Torres he wants to play on your shoulder, get in that right hand channel, and try to his famous cut in and whip. But we didn’t let him do that, we managed to get on to him quite well.

“I didn’t actually think he was that bad today. I thought he put himself about and he was not any worse than any of the rest. It’s just one of those things that he got taken off because of their approach to the second half. We managed to keep them quiet in the second half, so that’s how we did our job.”

Davies, like Villas-Boas, believes Torres will eventually again become the world-class threat that allowed him to score 65 goals in 102 league appearances for Liverpool. “He is one of those players that you will to do well, because you know that the quality he has got and that he did bring to the Premier League, and hopefully he can bring that back again,” Davies said.