Chelsea begin their quest to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles on Wednesday when they entertain a Juventus side still getting used to matchdays without their coach.
The Londoners ended a long wait to become kings of Europe for the first time by beating Bayern Munich on penalties on a memorable night in the German club’s Allianz Arena in May but manager Roberto Di Matteo said their thirst for trophies remained unquenched.
“The owner (Roman Abramovich) has never lost his ambition,” Di Matteo said ahead of the Group E opener at Stamford Bridge. “He always wants to win with this club and continue to drive for excellence. As long as he is at the helm his ambition to win will never diminish.”
Chelsea have made a good start to their domestic season and are riding high at the top of the Premier League with three wins and one draw from their opening four games. However, they have failed to win their last two matches.Juventus coach Antonio Conte will be absent from the bench because of a 10-month ban for his role in not reporting match-fixing while boss of Siena last year.
‘No early exit’
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson vowed there would be no repeat of last season's early Champions League exit as he prepared for the opening fixture at home to Galatasaray.
The triple European champions failed to progress from the group stage in 2011-12 after suffering a shock 2-1 defeat by Swiss club Basel in their final fixture.
“We’ve lost two finals to Barcelona and won two other finals in the last decade or so but we want to do better,” Ferguson told the club’s website. “Certainly we’ll do better than last year — no question about that. The European Cup is incredible. We want to be up there in terms of the number of trophies won in European football.”
Striking new beat
Tito Vilanova is quietly stamping his authority on the Barcelona team and they head into their opener at home to Spartak Moscow with La Liga’s only perfect record.
It was a daunting task to step up from assistant to replace Pep Guardiola in the Nou Camp hot seat, taking over from a fans’ idol who won a record 14 trophies in his four years in charge.
Vilanova, who turned 44 on Monday, did not command the instant respect that the former Spain international Guardiola had accrued, but he has quickly shown he is not afraid to plough his own furrow.
“The philosophy and method of working is basically pretty similar, but we have a new coach, a new form of doing things and we are very happy about him being with us,” Iniesta said.