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Rediff.com  » Sports » Scolari ready for Champions League bow

Scolari ready for Champions League bow

September 15, 2008 16:14 IST

Chelsea's World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari becomes the latest to try to guide the rich London club to European club football's big prize on Tuesday when the Champions League groups stages kick off.

The Brazilian's first challenge as he makes takes his bow in the competition will be to negotiate a path through Group A which includes opening opponents Girondins Bordeaux, Roma and Romanian outsiders CFR Cluj.

The Romanians are one of two clubs making their debut in the competition on Tuesday with Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta in Group B action at German Bundesliga runners-up Werder Bremen.

Champions League heavyweights Barcelona, Inter Milan and Liverpool also begin their campaigns on Tuesday.

Barca, losing semi-finalists last season, host Sporting Lisbon in Group C, Jose Mourinho's Inter are at Panathinaikos and Liverpool, fresh from a morale-boosting victory over European champions Manchester United, travel to southern France to play Olympique Marseille.

Another standout fixture is PSV Eindhoven's home Group D encounter with Atletico Madrid.

IMPRESSIVE START

Scolari has enjoyed an impressive start since taking over from Avram Grant at Chelsea and his side sit top of the Premier League after a 3-1 defeat of Manchester City on Saturday.

The wily Brazilian, who guided his country to the 2002 World title before a furthering his reputation as Portugal coach, hopes to take Chelsea one small step further than last season when they suffered a painful penalty shoot-out defeat by Manchester United in the final in Moscow.

Russian owner Roman Abramovich craves the Champions League trophy more than anything else and three managers, Claudio Ranieri, Mourinho and Grant, have been sent packing by the oil tycoon for not delivering.

Despite the daunting challenge he faces Scolari is keeping things in perspective.

"The pressure for me and the players is not only for the Champions League. It is for the FA Cup, the Carling Cup and the Premier League -- we want to win all of the games," he was quoted in British media this week.

Chelsea will have to do without midfield enforcer Michael Essien who has a knee injury, although striker Didier Drogba will be available after returning from a knee injury to come on as a substitute against Manchester City.

POOR CAMPAIGN

Bordeaux, who pushed Olympique Lyon so close to the French title last season, have begun the new campaign poorly and struggled to a 1-1 draw against Marseille on Saturday.

For CFR Cluj the visit to Rome's Olympic Stadium will be the pinnacle of their 101-year existence, having won the Romanian championship for the first time in May.

With a squad liberally laced with south Americans and Portuguese players they should provide plenty of entertainment in Group A and Roma will be wary of becoming the victims of an opening night shock.

Famagusta will travel to Werder Bremen confident they can compete in a group that contains Inter Milan and Panathinaikos after putting out Olympiakos to qualify for the group stage.

Coached by former Newcastle United striker Temuri Ketsbaia, they are not just making up the numbers.

"In football you don't achieve your dreams by going to bed at night and waking up in the morning in the Champions League," he told the Observer on Sunday. "You need to work and that's what we will continue to do in the group stage."

Martyn Herman
Source:
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