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Mourinho looking forward to Champions League opener

SoccerNews in Serie A, UEFA Champions League 28 Aug 2008


Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho cannot wait to get started after his side drew Germans Werder Bremen, Panathinaikos of Greece and Cyprus's Anorthosis Famagusta in Thursday's Champions League group stage draw.

Italian champions Inter will be one of the favourites for this season's competition but Mourinho dismissed the relevance of the draw, despite what seems on paper an easy task for his side.

“The draw is the draw, there's nothing to do about it,” he said. “Even after seeing the teams we will play, you don't know if it will be an easy or difficult first phase.

“Our first objective is to get to the next phase, the second is to try to do so as Group B winners.

“Of course we're really motivated and confident, we want to start playing the Champions League as soon as possible.”

Juventus were given one of the hardest possible draws with Spanish champions Real Madrid, UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg and rank outsiders BATE Borisov from Belarus.

Juve's French administrator Jean-Claude Blanc admitted the Italian giants were just relieved to be back at this stage after a two-year absence.

“For us it's great to be welcomed back to the Champions League with a classic encounter against Real Madrid,” he said.

“But there's also Zenit, who represent the progression of East European teams. Our players need to remember that they're playing at the highest level and that Juve are back!”

AS Roma have a tough draw with last season's runners-up Chelsea as well as Bordeaux of France and Romanians Cluj but coach Luciano Spalletti said he was happy with that.

“It seems like a good group to me, certainly an interesting one,” he said.

Roma were always going to draw one of the continent's big teams – just as they did last season when they were pooled with Manchester United – as they were only in the second pot. Spalletti admitted that Chelsea will start as favourites.

“That team has something extra. However, we've attained a certain level over the last few years and I think that's something the players should cherish like a treasure,” he said.

Fiorentina, who were in the fourth pot of teams – those ranked lowest by UEFA – have a difficult proposition with French champions Lyon, German champions Bayern Munich and Romanians Steaua Bucharest in their group.

It means a return to Florence for Bayern Munich's Italy forward Luca Toni.

“We're going to face someone we know very well,” said Fiorentina centre-back Alessandro Gamberini, who believes his team can match the others in their group.

“We're not starting out already beaten, we'll fight to prove that we're also a good team,” he said. “Even so, it would be a great achievement to get to the next round.”


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