Early Doors

Once more, with feeling

Early Doors

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When they were winning multiple Premier League titles and FA Cups, it used to be said of Chelsea that these were all very well but Roman Abramovich's real ambition was to win the Champions League.

This was said knowingly by many who claimed to have the inside track on the Russian oligarch's thinking, as though every other president or chairman ploughs their money into a club with no ambition of winning the biggest trophy going. No, they would much rather target the Capital One Cup and see European football as a distraction.

Now the same thing is being said about Manchester City - that winning the Premier League is just a stepping stone to Sheikh Mansour winning the European Cup. Well, yes. Of course it is.

Now that Chelsea have won Europe's biggest competition, however, the hype-merchants need a new objective with which to task the Blues.

Much is now being made of Chelsea's bid to become the first club to retain the Champions League, as though a) that hasn't been true of every other club which has won it and b) AC Milan, Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Inter Milan, Benfica and Real Madrid all achieving the feat before is rendered invalid because the trophy did not have its own theme song back then.

After they stifled, ground and countered their way to the trophy last season (though not nearly as much as many would have you believe) this time Chelsea have to win it with style. Once more, with feeling.

It seems a reasonable enough request considering the amount of cash invested into the club by Abramovich. If Early Doors had thrown more than £1 billion at a football team it would, quite reasonably, expect it to reach a level of flair and panache to make Barcelona look like Egil Olsen's Wimbledon by comparison.

To that end, this summer saw the arrival of attacking quartet Eden Hazard, Oscar, Marko Marin and Victor Moses for a total of more than £70 million. Even Cesar Azpilicueta, a £6.5m signing from Marseille, is at times more offensive than Jerry Sadowitz.

After a run of three exciting wins in August propelled them to the top of the Premier League table, last night's Group E opener against Juventus at Stamford Bridge was Chelsea's first chance to take their new free-wheeling approach to the European stage.

Oscar — after an opening half-hour in which he stuck resolutely to Andrea Pirlo when Juve were in possession — and Hazard helped the Blues play an open game that earned them a 2-0 lead. Oscar got both the goals, the first a deflected effort from range and the second an unforgettable curler which was teed up by a single touch that left Pirlo unable to do anything except stroke that trendy new beard of his in admiration.

But Juve didn't win Serie A last season with an unbeaten record for nothing, and they pulled themselves back on terms. First Arturo Vidal reduced the two-goal deficit soon after Oscar's wonder strike and then, 10 minutes from time, substitute Fabio Quagliarella equalised.

The Quag was the beneficiary of two poor individual errors, as first John Obi Mikel gave the ball away cheaply and then John Terry made an awful attempt to play the goal scorer offside.

Fair play to Mikel for coming out to give a live post-match interview afterwards. The Nigerian midfielder looked genuinely cut up as he gave his mea culpa. He won't be playing another forward pass in a hurry. As for Terry, if his error hammers the point home that, for a player of his pace, if he has thought about doing something then it is already too late to do it, then two Chelsea players will have learnt valuable lessons in one evening.

Relinquishing a two-goal lead, even against a side of Juve's quality, does perhaps show up some of the shortcomings of Chelsea adopting a more enterprising approach in Europe.

But, after Tuesday night's ding-dong at the Bernabeu and Wednesday's comeback from Barcelona at the Camp Nou, it's good to see Chelsea begin their campaign in a style befitting of defending champions.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I don't get many, so when the chance is there... You can go down, and there's a chance the keeper will be sent off, but we've missed three penalties (this season), so taking the chance was the right one." — Manchester United's Michael Carrick reveals he chose to persevere after being tripped by Galatasaray keeper Fernando Muslera and was rewarded with the only goal in the 1-0 win. Danny Welbeck, take note.

FOREIGN VIEW: "The fans have their preferences but my job is to try to make the national team improve and it did and that's how we got a victory in the end." - Brazil coach Mano Menezes reacts to fans calling for him to be replaced by Luiz Felipe Scolari as the team struggled to a 2-1 win over Argentina in last night's friendly in Goiania.

COMING UP: Tonight it is the Europa League's time to shine and we will have live coverage of three fixtures involving Premier League sides - Young Boys v Liverpool (18:00), Maritimo v Newcastle (18:00) and Tottenham v Lazio (20:05).

Before all that, there will be some in-depth analysis one of the weekend's Premier League matches with Tactical Brain, Jan Molby will be filing his latest column and today's Pitchside Europe blog will be a dispatch from the Bundesliga.

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