Divisions in Chelsea become clearer

David Luiz’s apparent criticism of his teammate Frank Lampard this week has done nothing to dispel the view that Chelsea are currently a club in turmoil.

England midfielder Lampard has grown frustrated after losing his regular starting spot and recently confessed his relationship with beleaguered manager André Villas-Boas was “not ideal”.

Speaking about the situation in Portuguese newspaper O Jogo, Luiz seemed to suggest Lampard should knuckle down and adopt a stronger team ethic.

“No one has to be someone’s father or son in a football club,” Brazilian defender Luiz said.

“There are no privileged people there. He [Lampard] simply has to listen to the coach when he gives orders and take them,” added Luiz, who joined Chelsea from Portuguese giants Benfica.

“No player can forget that they are just an employee of the club.”

Luiz later took to Twitter to claim he was speaking generally but there can be no doubt tensions are rising at Stamford Bridge, with Portuguese boss Villas-Boas’s position increasingly under threat.

Minimum target
Last weekend’s victory over Bolton Wanderers provided some respite but three points will again be the minimum target when Chelsea, still outside the Champions League places on goal difference, travel to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

The presence of Jose Mourinho in London this week on a house-hunting mission prompted speculation the Real Madrid coach could be set for a return to his former club — where he employed Villas-Boas as a scout.

Meanwhile the current Chelsea manager admitted he was unsure if he retains the backing of hire-and-fire Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

Against such a backdrop, Chelsea must galvanise themselves and the sight of Daniel Sturridge limping out of England’s midweek friendly international defeat by The Netherlands only adding to Villas-Boas’s woes.

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, fears Ben Foster’s fine form could price the Midlands side out of a post-season move for the goalkeeper.

Foster is on loan from Birmingham until the end of this season and the Baggies are eager to land him permanently.

The former Manchester United keeper was expected to fetch £4 million and any deal would hinge on Birmingham failing to earn promotion.

Possibilities
But Hodgson admits Foster’s eye-catching displays could trigger a bidding war and lead to his valuation rocketing.

“It’s a possibility, it’s a potential hurdle,” said Hodgson. “Our only chance, I would think, of Ben being available for us would be if Birmingham don’t go up.”

“If they go up they have made that clear. What worried them was him playing in the Championship. They wanted him retaining his value by playing in the Premier League … He has not only retained his value, he might have added to it,” he said.

“I would think if all goes well and they do want to sell, we would have a good chance as long as the transfer fee is one which the club feels it can accept, which would be the next stumbling block because he could get priced out of our range.”

“He might not be for sale. Birmingham might not want to sell him. But if Birmingham do decide they want to sell him, it will be pretty much down to market forces … I think he’s got better and better quite frankly,” he added.

Former Fulham and Liverpool manager Hodgson must decide whether to recall striker Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long, with Albion having scored nine goals in their last two matches. — AFP

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