Abramovich takes a watching brief

Roman Abramovich watched Chelsea training again on Tuesday as he continued to inspect the Andre Villas-Boas regime at close quarters.

Football News: Chelsea

The Blues' billionaire owner has been conspicuous by his absence from the club's Cobham base since Villas-Boas became manager last summer, sidetracked by his high-profile court battle with former associate Boris Berezovsky.

Abramovich made what is thought to be his first training-ground visit of the season on Saturday, spending more than half an hour watching the preparations for Sunday's 3-3 Barclays Premier League draw with Manchester United and 20 minutes speaking with Villas-Boas.

Chelsea on Monday denied claims the pair had been engaged in 'showdown' talks, following a report Abramovich had become frustrated with results that have left them 14 points behind leaders Manchester City and only one away from dropping out of the top four.

But it seems clear Abramovich has elected to resume a more active interest in the club he has poured £1billion of his fortune into, having also spent an half an hour speaking to players after watching them blow a 3-0 lead against United.

Villas-Boas was on Monday night relaxed about the Russian's weekend visit, saying it had a "good impact".

He added: "Roman is always very interested in the running of events and it was good for the team to feel his presence.

"We touched a little bit, of course, on next year's project but mainly on that (United) game.

"Roman is a very educated person to the cause of Chelsea Football Club and his aura is always present."

Chelsea on Tuesday night maintained there was nothing sinister behind Abramovich watching training, while Villas-Boas has repeatedly declared he has no doubt he will still be manager next season.

The Russian has certainly shown more patience with the 34-year-old than with his predecessors, seemingly recognising the need to overhaul an ageing squad.

But it will be exactly three years on Thursday since Abramovich sacked Luiz Felipe Scolari after beginning to fear Chelsea would not qualify for the Champions League and they are in an even worse position now than they were then.

Meanwhile, Abramovich was able to watch John Obi Mikel return to full training on Tuesday after seven weeks on the sidelines.

The Nigeria international has been out since suffering a hamstring injury in December's 1-1 draw at Tottenham but was back with the rest of the squad ahead of Saturday's trip to Everton.

Fellow midfielder Frank Lampard is on course to make his return at Goodison Park, having sat out the last three matches with a calf problem.

That leaves captain John Terry and Ramires (both knee) as Chelsea's only injured players, with Villas-Boas keeping his fingers crossed both will be available for the following weekend's FA Cup clash with Birmingham.

The Blues boss acknowledged it was important to "get the team back to its strong belief" in time for the Birmingham game and Champions League tie with Napoli.

He added: "We set out with a team that we believe in for this season and we will continue to pursue the trophies that we have in our hands and try to win them.

"One of them is the FA Cup and the other is the Champions League.

"We are still in with a chance and we will continue to pursue those objectives."

The Blues could also resurrect their interest in Shakhtar Donetsk's Brazilian star Willian.

Shakhtar claimed they rejected a £16.7million bid in the January transfer window for the 23-year-old.

Santos also tried to sign Willian on loan and their president, Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro, last week said he expected the player to move to Chelsea this summer.

That would see him join 15-year-old defender Andreas Christensen, who will move from Brondby at the end of the season after agreeing a deal on Sunday.

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