Andre Villas-Boas hits back at 'persecution' of Chelsea

By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Stamford Bridge

Andre Villas-Boas said Chelsea gave their critics a "slap in the face" by reaching the Champions League knockout phase with victory over Valencia.

The Portuguese manager was speaking after the 3-0 win, claiming there had been "persecution" of the Blues during their recent indifferent run.

"My players deserve respect they don't get," said Villas-Boas.

"We've been chased by different kinds of people and pressures. Here we have given everyone a slap in the face."

The crucial win over Valencia was only Chelsea's fifth in their last 11 matches but it was enough to ensure the Blues topped Group E ahead of German outfit Bayer Leverkusen, who could only draw at Genk.

And Villas-Boas took the opportunity to hit out at the media's coverage of the London team.

He feels that Premier League leaders Manchester City have not been under the same pressure - even though they could exit the Champions League at the group stage, having lost to Napoli.

Villas-Boas said: "It [the coverage] has been over the top.

"I hope they [Manchester City] qualify for the Champions League knockout stage but the attitude to them is; if they qualify they qualify, if they don't they don't - we don't get that margin."

Villas-Boas was particularly unhappy at comments from former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville in the build-up to the match.

He added: "We see a [former] Manchester United defender [Neville] say in the preparations for the game things like, 'I don't want to be one of the Chelsea players today, I couldn't play this game and it is a difficult game for them'.

"This is out of this world for me, I don't believe this. This is a continuous persecution, it is aggression towards one club.

"It is unfortunate for you guys [the media] because you have to report on a brilliant win for Chelsea and we qualify first in the group. It is difficult for everybody and today this is difficult for you."

Villas-Boas was elated that Chelsea not only qualified with two goals from Didier Drogba and another from Ramires - but topped the group.

"Finishing top of the group is fantastic," he added. "It is against all odds. Nobody would have put a bet on us finishing top but it has happened and it is very satisfying.

"The team was excellent. It was a win of human values, team spirit, solidarity, responsibility, strength of character, resilience, ability to take criticism."

Chelsea now await the draw for the last 16 on Friday, 16 December.