Tuesday, July 16, 2024

I don´t need Champions League to dodge Abramovich´s axe insists Scolari

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari insists he doesn’t need to win the Champions League to satisfy Roman Abramovich.

Scolari’s predecessors, Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant, failed to deliver Europe’s top club prize to Chelsea’s demanding owner and eventually paid the price as Abramovich wielded the axe.

Ranieri and Mourinho were unable to get past the semi-finals in three attempts and Grant took the Blues to last year’s final, where they were beaten on penalties by Manchester United.

Now it is Scolari who puts his head on the block as he gets a first taste of Europe’s elite club competition in Tuesday’s clash against Bordeaux at Stamford Bridge.

For the moment at least the Brazilian shows no signs of feeling the pressure.

He has spoken to Abramovich about Chelsea’s targets this season and is adamant that the Russian billionaire did not link success in the Champions League with his job security.

“You don’t know the history. I know why the others were sacked. I could say it in Portuguese because in English it is impossible to say,” Scolari said.

“I don’t talk with Roman Abramovich about the Champions League. I talk to him about Chelsea and about all competitions. Particularly competition A, B or C?, never.

“We have to win all competitions, not only this competition. If you say this competition is more important than another I say no.

“This game is important and so is the League Cup and FA Cup. If you ask the players they want to win all of them.

“I won’t say to my players only play for your life in the Champions League. They need to do their best in all competitions, all games and all the training sessions.”

Scolari knows the bitter memory of that shoot-out defeat to United in Moscow is a huge motivating factor for his team, but he refuses to dwell on the past.

“I spoke to the players about starting this competition but I don’t speak about losing the final or the penalties. I spoke only positive words,” he said.

“I know Chelsea have tried for many years to win the Champions League. Last season they reached the final and that was fantastic. It is not easy, not just for Chelsea, but for many clubs to reach the final.

“We start to try again but it is a long way and we need to respect the other clubs.”

Although Scolari has never experienced European action before, he knows how to succeed in continental competition after twice winning the Copa Libertadores – the South American version of the Champions League.

“I was a coach in many countries but I think the Champions League is one of the most important competitions of my life,” Scolari said.

“In South America we have the Libertadores Cup. But in Europe we have more clubs and it is stronger than South America because there are more countries that have strong teams.”

With Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash against Manchester United looming large, Scolari could have been forgiven for resting players against Bordeaux but he will send out a strong team, minus the suspended Didier Drogba, with Michael Ballack likely to return after injury.

“I must think about Bordeaux,” he added. “I can’t worry about Sunday, I could be dead!”

John Obi Mikel is confident Chelsea can make amends for last season’s final defeat as long as Portugal playmaker Deco stays fit and in form.

“It has been a long time since the Champions League final,” the Nigerian said. “We all felt really bad after the game and we know what we lost. But this season we have a very good chance of winning it.

“Deco brings a lot to the team. He is the kind of player that always want to express himself.

“When you have guys like that you are going to have more possession. That is what the manager wants, he wants us to keep the ball and pass it.”

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