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Champions League success not a priority for Scolari

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 16 Sep 2008

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Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari heads into his side’s opening Champions League fixture against Bordeaux insisting he doesn’t feel under pressure to win Europe’s top club prize.

Just four months after Chelsea beat a weary retreat from Moscow in the aftermath of their Champions League final defeat against Manchester United, the Blues return to European action at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

John Terry and company would love to reach next year’s final in Rome and avenge that heart-breaking penalty shoot-out loss, but Scolari refuses to attach special importance to the competition because he knows he has to deliver success on all fronts to satisfy owner Roman Abramovich.

“The pressure for me and the players is not only for the Champions League,” Scolari said.

“It is for the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Premier League – we want to win all of the games.

“For me, the Champions League is not more important than the League Cup. It is important but it is not more important than a league game.

“We need to think game by game. If I say the Champions League is the most important then my players will ask why they need to bother in the other games.

“I respect the Champions League but all games are important. If you think a game is not important you will lose it before it starts.”

If Terry had converted his spot-kick in the final, he would be leading the Blues into the Bordeaux match as champions of Europe. Instead the Chelsea captain slipped and his miss allowed United to snatch the trophy.

Terry left the pitch in tears but Scolari, who watched the match on television, is convinced the England defender has shrugged off the painful memories of that nightmare moment.

“When he missed that penalty I was sad because I like him. But it was just one shot in one game and life continues,” Scolari said.

“I had always liked John as a player. Now I like him even more than before. We talk every day. I am a democratic man you know. I listen.”

Scolari’s glittering 26-year managerial career includes World Cup glory and success at the highest level in South America, but Tuesday’s clash will be his first taste of the Champions League’s rarefied atmosphere.

The Brazilian shouldn’t have any problems identifying the strengths and weaknesses of Bordeaux’s squad though as Laurent Blanc’s side is packed with South American talent.

“That is good because it will be easier for me to say to my players ‘this player plays this way’ because I know them well,” he said.

Like Scolari, Bordeaux boss Blanc will also be taking charge of his first match in the continent’s elite competition.

The former France and Manchester United defender admits his side, who drew 1-1 with Marseille on Saturday, are struggling to live up to their billing as title contenders.

Les Girondins have won just two of their first five league matches and Blanc, who will be without suspended defenders Mathieu Chalme and Benoit Tremoulinas against Chelsea, said: “There is progress to make and we have to be willing and motivated, even if you sometimes have to make errors so you don’t commit the same ones again.

“We are perhaps not in the best condition psychologically to be on top form at the moment and we are going through a difficult period.

“With the matches we have coming up, we must be at our best in a lot of areas.”

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