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Chelsea and Mourinho 'ready for war'

Mourinho says his squad is even better than before, clicking off major new additions to a club that has already won back-to-back Premier League titles.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2006 18:17 IST

The rest of the Premier League be warned. "We are ready for war," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said, his hair cropped in a buzz cut, but still voicing the arrogance that's won lots of gamesand few friends.

"I don't care too much about image," he said. "I don't think it's possible to be loved by everyone. Not in a lifetime and especially not in football."

Mourinho says his squad "is even better than before," clicking off major new additions to a club that has already won back-to-back Premier League titles.

Chelsea's only slight weakness has been scoring goals and its failure to win Europe's top trophythe Champions League. In eight Champions League games last season, the Blues scored only nine goals.

That should change after some major summer acquisitions by Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. Since buying the club three years ago, he has splurged about 400 million pounds (US$750 million) on players.

The newcomers are Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko, Germany captain Michael Ballack and Ivory Coast-born striker Salomon Kalou, voted the top young player in the Netherlands in 2005.

Add to this Nigerian teenage midfielder Mikel John Obi, who moved from Norwegian club Lyn Olso for a reported 16 million pounds (US$30 million).

Chelsea meets Liverpool in Cardiff on Sunday in the Community Shield, the traditional preseason warm-up game between the FA Cup winner and the league champion. The Premier League season begins on August 19.

Shevchenko and Ballack have claimed most of the headlines this summer. Chelsea paid AC Milan the highest transfer fee in English soccer history,30 million pounds (US$56 million) for the Ukraine striker.

"I don't like to put that kind of pressure on any individual," Mourinho said. "We know Andriy is a big player and has scored goals all his life. And he will score goals for Chelsea, no doubt about that."

Ballack moved on a free transfer from Bayern Munich and will earn a weekly salary estimated at 130,000 pounds (US$250,000)among the highest in world soccer.

"The new players we have are not many, but are high quality players and they are new motivation for us," Mourinho said. "Sheva and Ballack don't come here just to make more money. They don't come here to learn English or enjoy London. They come here for a big challenge."

They join a star-studded team that includes Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, Dutch winger Arjen Robben, Ghana and England midfielders Michael Essien and Frank Lampard, England defender John Terry and Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech.

"I've never seen anything like the competition here at Chelsea and training is so sharp," said England midfielder Joe Cole, who picked up a knee injury in a 1-0 loss in Chicago to an MLS All-Star team. "If you don't have a good training session, then it will be trouble."

Chelsea held its preseason training camp in Los Angeles, where Mourinho preached bonding and togetherness. He's trimmed his squad slightly, hoping to quell complaints from benched players and give everyone more action.

Gone are Damien Duff (Newcastle), Eidur Gudjonhsen (FC Barcelona), Asier del Horno (Valencia) and Hernan Crespo (Inter Milan).

"It doesn't matter the player's name, his tattoos or his country," Mourinho said. "The team always comes first. You can have the biggest names in the world, but the team will always be in front of the players. I make decisions for the team, not the players."

Mourinho says winning a third straight Premier League is his main goal. But most believe what Chelsea really wants is a first Champions League title.

"We have to retain the Premiership again and build upon that, and that is our target," Terry said. "But with the players we have a brought in, we are really pushing for the Champions League. We are desperate for it."

Among Premier League teams, third-place Liverpool coached by Rafa Benitez has had more success against Chelsea than either Manchester United or Arsenal. However, Mourinho discounts Liverpool's chances.

"I still believe that Man United and Arsenal will be the biggest threat," Mourinho said. "They (Liverpool) are tactically very good, and they are potentially fighting for the front pack.

But I still fancy more the way Man United and Arsenal play football." Chelsea's only real weakness could be complacency or bad luck, particularly in the Champions League where competition is fierce and games are few.

"I don't believe it will be easy for other clubs to stop us," Mourinho said. "We are building a very strong football team and also a very strong family."

First Published: Aug 09, 2006 18:17 IST