Chelsea look to create Champions League dynasty
Four months after ending its agonizing wait to win the Champions League, Chelsea begins the defense of its title with a remodeled attacking unit and a burning desire to create a dynasty in Europe’s elite club competition.
Chelsea satisfied billionaire owner Roman Abramovich’s long-held obsession against all the odds last season, somehow coming through a one-sided semifinal against favorite Barcelona before beating Bayern Munich on penalties in the final despite having four key players suspended.
“It’s fantastic to have it in the bank but we can’t relax on that if we want to be a club that creates a real mark in Europe,” Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard said. “We’ve done it once and we want more.
“And it gets more difficult each year — Barcelona and Real Madrid are as strong as ever, if not stronger — but we’re not looking that far ahead. We have to concentrate right from the start on getting through the group.” Shakhtar Donetsk and Nordsjaelland, the Danish champions who are one of three debutants in this season’s competition, make up Group E but it will be a major surprise if the teams who meet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday don’t emerge as the two qualifiers.
Juventus, the European champion in 1985 and 1996, returns to the Champions League after a three-year absence and as the standout team in Italy once again.
Sunday’s 3-1 win at Genoa stretched its Serie A unbeaten streak to 42 matches and left the team top of the standings, just like Chelsea is in England a month into the new season.
“It would be a dream come true whoever we’re playing against.
It’s an important goal to play in the Champions League,” Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said. “We’re heading to Stamford Bridge with the knowledge that we’re a strong squad, but with the humility that we have to have.
“Chelsea has lost a key piece up front with the departure of (Didier) Drogba, but it is a strong group and we have to be careful.” Drogba, who left for Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua after his Chelsea contract expired, wasn’t the only stalwart to leave Stamford Bridge in the close season.
Michael Essien, Jose Bosingwa and Salomon Kalou also departed as manager Roberto di Matteo freshened up the squad with 80 million pounds ($130 million) worth of young talent in Eden Hazard, Oscar, Marko Marin and Victor Moses — all of whom are forwards or attacking midfielders to play behind Fernando Torres.
“We need to find the right balance between the strength and power that has always been Chelsea’s forte and the ability to score us some goals,” Lampard said.
Central defender John Terry is fit for the game despite needing treatment on his left knee in the latter stages of Saturday’s Premier League draw at Queens Park Rangers.
John Obi Mikel has a slight back injury but is fit, while Juan Mata is available after being rested at the weekend.
Juventus coach Antonio Conte won’t be on the touchline after his 10-month suspension in Italy for match-fixing violations was extended worldwide by FIFA on Friday.
Conte was suspended by the Italian football federation in the offseason for failing to report match-fixing by an opponent when he coached then-Serie B team Siena in the 2010-11 season.
Juventus technical director Massimo Carrera has taken charge at matches this season while Conte and his assistant Angelo Alessio are banished.