Luiz Felipe Scolari will be making his Champions League bow tonight when his Chelsea side start their campaign at home to Bordeaux.
The former Brazil and Portugal coach has twice lifted the Copa Libertadores – the South American counterpart to this competition – but he insists the competition in Europe will prove much tougher.
“In Europe there are many teams that are strong,” said Scolari. “In South America it is the same two or three countries that arrive every year in the final but here there are different countries [capable of winning it]. That means more competition, more quality, more difficulties.”
“I need to win, my team need to win, and the way [to the final] is hard and long,” Scolari said.
Scolari will have Michael Ballack available after injury, though Didier Drogba misses out through suspension and Michael Essien is a long-term absentee.
Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc is also leading out a side in the competition for the first time, but the former France defender has experienced it as a player. He knows his team face a huge test both at Stamford Bridge and in Group A.
“We have not got the set-up and players that Chelsea have, but one of the charming things about football is that any team can beat another if they have the right desire,” he said. “We are not apprehensive and we are not here to make up the numbers, but we are facing one of the best three or four teams in the world.”
Blanc is expected to recall Fernando Menegazzo after a domestic suspension kept the Brazilian out of Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Marseille, while Diego Placente and Franck Jurietti are tipped to deputise for suspended full-backs Matthieu Chalme and Benoit Tremoulinas.