LONDON - Andre Villas-Boas launches his
attempt on Tuesday to succeed where his six predecessors have
failed by delivering the Champions League trophy to Chelsea
owner Roman Abramovich this season.
Since the billionaire from Russia took control of the London
club in 2003, Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz
Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti have all left
Stamford Bridge after failing to reach the Holy Grail.
Chelsea's latest quest for glory in the competition that
Abramovich has spent hundreds of millions of pounds trying to
win starts against Bayer Leverkusen at Stamford Bridge on
With Valencia and Racing Genk making up the Group E quartet,
Chelsea should have little trouble easing through to the
knockout rounds of the competition.
The only players still at the club who took part in
Chelsea's first Champions League campaign when they reached the
semi-final in 2003/04 are John Terry and Frank Lampard, and
Lampard says past failures have only increased their desire to
lift the trophy.
"Obviously it is something the owner wants," he told
"When you have had a lot of domestic success, it's not just
the owner, but the whole club and the fans who want that extra
step - to win in Europe.
"As a club, with what we have achieved in the last six or
seven years, it's an obvious thing to say, the one thing that is
missing from our cabinet is the Champions League.
"I wouldn't say that's the only reason the other managers
have been sacked, but the pressure is cranked up regardless."
Villas-Boas is well prepared for it after becoming the
youngest coach to win a European trophy when he lifted the
Europa League with Porto last season.
Chelsea have started the new season in good form under him
and are undefeated with three wins and a draw from their opening
four matches following Saturday's 2-1 victory at Sunderland.
Striker Didier Drogba will miss Tuesday's match following
his head injury and subsequent concussion against Norwich City
two weeks ago, and with out-of-form Fernando Torres relegated to
the bench on Saturday, Villas-Boas could well start with the
youthful Daniel Sturridge alongside Nicolas Anelka up front.
With new signings Juan Mata from Valencia and Raul Meireles
from Liverpool strong additions to the squad, Chelsea look set
to challenge until the later stages again and will be determined
to improve on last season's quarter-final exit.
They will also be hoping to welcome former midfielder
Michael Ballack back to Stamford Bridge where the former Germany
captain spent four years from 2006-2010.
Lampard said he would get a great reception from the fans.
"It's very nice he's coming back," he said. "He's held in
very high respect at this club."
Like Chelsea, beaten by Manchester United in the 2008
final, Leverkusen have also reached and lost one final, going
down 2-1 to Real Madrid in Glasgow 10 seasons ago.
The pressures on them are entirely different to those on
Chelsea and Tuesday's match will be their first in the
competition in seven years.
They also go into it on a high after crushing Augsburg 4-1
"Now we can go to London with a lot of confidence," said
Sidney Sam, who scored twice in the game.
"Chelsea is going to be a very tough opponent."
Ballack will no doubt attract the spotlight against his old
club and coach Robin Dutt will be happy to have him back fit and
sharp, as he was against Augsburg, starting for the first time
alongside captain Simon Rolfes in midfield.
It is unclear, however, if Dutt will spring a similar
surprise against Chelsea.
"I do not know yet whether he [Ballack] will play on
Tuesday. We have a lot of fit players," Dutt told reporters.
Germany international Andre Schuerrle is the most likely
replacement for Ballack if he remains on the bench.
Dutt will, however, use 19-year-old goalkeeper Bernd Leno,
who has been outstanding so far this season as a replacement for
injured Germany international Rene Adler.
Chelsea: 1-Petr Cech; 17-Jose Bosingwa, 2-Branislav Ivanovic,
26-John Terry, 3-Ashley Cole; 7-Ramires, 16-Raul Meireles,
8-Frank Lampard, 23-Daniel Sturridge, 39-Nicolas Anelka, 10-Juan
Bayer Leverkusen: 23-Bernd Leno; 2-Daniel Schwaab, 21-Omer
Toprak, 3-Stefan Reinartz, 27-Gonzalo Castro; 18-Sidney Sam,
6-Simon Rolfes, 8-Lars Bender, 9-Andre Schuerrle, 10-Renato
Augusto; 11-Stefan Kiessling.
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