Didier Deschamps on Tuesday returns to Chelsea, the club where he spent one season, knowing his Marseille team face a stern Champions League challenge.
Chelsea, although beaten 1-0 by Manchester City at the weekend, top the English Premier League and Deschamps branded the west London club a “very competitive European team”.
“Returning to Stamford Bridge will give me great pleasure,” Deschamps, who captained France to victory in the 1998 World Cup final against Brazil, told UEFA.com.
“Although the stadium itself is renovated and much bigger, the wonderful atmosphere which I experienced remains,” said the 41-year-old Frenchman, who won the 2000 FA Cup with Chelsea under Gianluca Vialli.
“English grounds always seemed full and at the Bridge there were always families in the stadium and a great match atmosphere.
“But Chelsea now have a very competitive European team with something like 20 internationals – a great compensation if you have injured or suspended players.”
Deschamps is certainly imbued with European football, having twice won the Champions League as a player (with Marseille in 1993 and Juventus 1997) and as a coach led Monaco to the Champions League final in 2004 – a campaign that featured a semi-final elimination of Chelsea.
“Without hesitation, the Champions League is the best of all competitions,” he said.
“Not only do Chelsea want to win this trophy, they are among four or five teams that can legitimately expect to do so.
“They won the (Premier League) title last season and are already performing really well. I know their manager (Carlo Ancelotti) well.
“He was my coach for six months at Juventus and I also often played against him. I like his style of football and I’ll also be pleased to see Carlo again.”
Marseille lost their opening Champions League Group F match, a Cesar Azpilicueta own goal handing Spartak Moscow a 1-0 victory.
Marseille sit fifth in the French league with three wins from the opening seven matches of the season, in which they have leaked nine goals.
With Chelsea having racked up 21 goals in their opening six matches and having seen off Slovakian side Zilina 4-1 in their opener, Deschamps will have to ensure his side close down a side boasting talent throughout.
Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal, whom they play in the Premier League next weekend, travel to Serbia to play Partizan Belgrade, unbeaten in their domestic league this season.
Arsenal’s buoyant confidence after a 6-0 thrashing of Sporting Braga will doubtless have been dented by a shock 3-2 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, but the Londoners should have enough class to bag three more points.
Much will depend on how Arsenal’s defence deals with Brazilian striker Cleo, the scorer of eight goals in Partizan’s six Champions League qualifiers who last week was granted Serbian citizenship.
In other matches, Group G giants AC Milan and Real Madrid travel to Ajax and Auxerre respectively.
Real midfielder Alvaro Arbeloa insists Auxerre should not be under-estimated despite their opponents lying fourth from bottom of the French first division.
“Tuesday’s match is going to be very difficult. Auxerre aren’t doing that well in the Ligue 1 right now, but the fact that they are playing Real Madrid will motivate them,” he said.
“We are very focused and we hope to earn the three points in play.”
Basel play Bayern Munich and Roma host CFR 1907 Cluj-Napoca in Group E matches, Spartak Moscow are at home to MSK Zilina in Group F, and Braga entertain Shakhtar Donetsk in Group H.
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