Villas-Boas unfazed by Chelsea's Euro dream

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas insists he is not overburdened by pressure as the Premier League side prepare to begin their latest tilt at Champions League glory on Tuesday.

Updated: September 12, 2011 15:56 IST
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London: Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas insists he is not overburdened by pressure as the Premier League side prepare to begin their latest tilt at Champions League glory on Tuesday.

When Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 - having become intoxicated by the glamour of European football as a guest at the semi-final between Real Madrid and Manchester United a few months earlier - success in the Champions League was rapidly identified as a top priority.

But in the eight years since the Russian billionaire rolled into Stamford Bridge, the west London club have endured a series of heartbreaks, most notably their penalty shoot-out loss to United in the 2008 Moscow final.

Villas-Boas's immediate predecessor, Carlo Ancelotti, was hired specifically because of his Champions League-winning pedigree, but was fired last season after a quarter-final exit against United.

Despite the ruthless nature of Chelsea's paymasters, Villas-Boas says he is relaxed about Europe as his side open their Champions League group against Bayer Leverkusen at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

"I just have to focus on what the owner has told me. One of his obsessions is to play well, and that's what we try to do," Villas-Boas said.

"Of course, we have to add the trophies to the playing well situation, and that's our main focus as a top team, there's nothing new in that."

"If you take the European trophy, of course it is a dream to everybody, but it's the most difficult trophy to win when you see the level of the other European teams as they are and it's going to be a massive challenge again.

"We just have to go step by step on it. We have two days to rest only before the Leverkusen game with Bayer having one day extra to rest, and we have to focus on getting the first three points before going to Valencia."

Chelsea head into the Leverkusen clash with increased confidence following an unbeaten start to the Premier League season, their most recent win a 2-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Chelsea are favourites to top Group E, which also includes Spanish side Valencia and Belgium's Genk, although Villas-Boas insists his team will take nothing for granted.

"It's an extremely difficult group in my opinion," Villas-Boas said.

"We all saw what Valencia did last season and they are very, very regularly in the Champions League."

"The Belgian champions (Genk) have lost a couple of talents that they had with (Thibaut) Courtois, who joined us and went on loan to Atletico (Madrid), but have some good talent available."

Leverkusen, who reached the Champions League final in 2002 where they were beaten by Real Madrid, were also a threat, Villas-Boas said.

"Leverkusen have this strong emotional impact of being present in the Champions League final and always wanting to perform well," the Chelsea coach said. "They lost (Arturo) Vidal, of course, to Juventus but have again good quality players."

Leverkusen will also head into the game in buoyant mood after warming up for the clash with a 4-1 rout of Augsburg last Friday.

Tuesday's match could also see German legend Michael Ballack make an emotional return to Stamford Bridge, although Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt has refused to confirm whether the former Chelsea midfielder will start.

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