The new money of Chelsea heads to the billionaires playground of Monaco with a place in the final of the Champions League at stake.
After spending £120m on fresh talent since taking over the club in the summer, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, can earn an immediate reward on his investment if Chelsea prevail in the principality tonight.
Monaco boss Didier Deschamps, who mastermined his side’s shock win over Real Madrid in the previous round, believes Chelsea will provide just as tough a test as the Spanish side.
“If they are in the semis, it means they have huge potential,” said Deschamps, who spent one season with Chelsea in 1999-2000.
“They’ve won all their Champions League away games, conceded five goals and have 25 or 30 international players.
“They might not be as prestigious as Real but this game will be at least as hard for us as that one.”
Respect between the two coaches is mutual with Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri arguing that his team are the underdogs of the four remaining sides left in the competition.
“I would say it is 30-percent Monaco, 30-percent Deportivo, 30-percent Porto and only 10-percent Chelsea,” he said.
“Porto beat Manchester United. Deportivo beat AC Milan. So why are we the favourites?
“This is a great achievement for me and the club. It will be a great match because Chelsea can score goals away from home. That’s good for us.”
Ranieri has the utmost respect for tonight’s opponents.
“They have a good team, good players, four wonderful strikers.
“On the left, there is (Jerome) Rothen, a fantastic winger, left foot, wonderful. On the right, (Ludovic) Giuly, like (Gianfranco) Zola, a wizard. A very, very good team who play champagne football.”
Chelsea are without Damien Duff and William Gallas both ruled out through injury although that news has been offset by confirmation that striker Eidur Gudjohnsen and defender John Terry have passed fitness tests. Hernan Cresppo, a peripheral figure for much of the season, is expected to start alongside Gudjohnsen.
Monaco will be without defender Sebastien Squillaci, who has not recovered from a thigh injury. But Shabani Nonda, last season’s leading scorer in France, is fit.
Chelsea, who have won their last five away matches in the competition will be looking to maintain that impressive run. Equally, Monaco, the highest scorers in this season’s competition, must regard tonight’s match as a must-win encounter if they harbour ambitions to win this year’s trophy.
A fascinating encounter awaits.
Monaco: Roma, Evra, Ibarra, Rodriguez, Givet, Bernardi, Giuly, Zikos, Rothen, Prso, Morientes.
Chelsea: Ambrosio, Terry, Desailly, Melchiot, Bridge, Lampard, Makelele, Parker, Gronkjaer, Gudjohnsen, Crespo.