Chelsea, one of the favourites to win this season’s competition, get their Champions League campaign underway with a home tie against Werder Bremen.
Having added Andrii Shevchenko and Michael Ballack to their squad during the summer, coach Jose Mourinho will certainly not want for experience. Nonetheless, Mourinho is taking nothing for granted tonight.
“I think they were the best team in the third group of seeds,” he said. “It could have been an easier draw. I don’t think they are afraid of us. [Afraid] is not a word you can apply at the highest level. I think they respect us, they know they are in a very difficult group.”
“If you look at the players we bought, it is right to say Chelsea should be stronger [than last season], should be contenders,” he said.
“But it is not fair to forget the other teams. For me there are a minimum of ten favourites. If we finish third and go to the UEFA Cup, then we would be favourites!”
Mourinho admits that Ballack needs time to work on his midfield understanding with Frank Lampard, but the Portuguese coach is delighted with the start made by Shevchenko.
“He is a team player. He is not worried about scoring goals or being man of the match, he is a great human being and we love having him,” Mourinho said.
“But his scoring record is unbelievable. He will score more than one goal in these six [group] matches.”
Bremen, meanwhile, will be without goalkeeper Tim Wiese, who is suffering from bronchitis. More significantly, there is a question mark over the fitness of striker Miroslav Klose.
“He has a thigh injury which is improving,” Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf said.
“If Miroslav cannot play, it will be a very great loss. But it has not hindered our preparations as we have tested out a variety of approaches.”
Bremen captain Frank Baumann, an occasional German international team-mate of Ballack, said: “We’ll be looking out for him, but they do not just have one goalscorer but 20 or 25 players that can score goals.”
Chelsea: Petr Cech; Khalid Boulahrouz, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, Wayne Bridge; Michael Essien, Claude Makelele, Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard; Andrii Shevchenko, Didier Drogba.
Werder Bremen: Andreas Reinke; Patrick Owomoyela, Petri Pasanen, Naldo, Pierre Wome; Frank Baumann, Tim Borowski, Daniel Jensen; Diego, Mohamed Zidan, Miroslav Klose.