Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid CF)
Real Madrid's ongoing quest for the so-called 'Décima' – a tenth European Cup – prompted them to turn to a man with an illustrious history. Twice a winner of the competition as a player with AC Milan, in 1988/89 and 1989/90, Ancelotti has since added two further triumphs while in the Rossoneri dugout – in 2002/03 and 2006/07. He might have had a hat-trick had Milan not suffered a remarkable defeat by Liverpool FC in the 2005 final. Latterly Ancelotti, 54, has failed to get beyond the quarter-finals in three UEFA Champions League campaigns with Chelsea FC and Paris Saint-Germain FC.
Jagoba Arrasate (Real Sociedad de Fútbol)
Real Sociedad's young coach – still only 35 – will, like the majority of his squad, be making his debut in the UEFA Champions League this season. As a player, Arrasate had a somewhat modest career, but from the bench his star has risen to far greater heights. Assistant to Philippe Montanier as the Txuri-urdin finished fourth in last term's Spanish Liga, Arrasate has now assumed the reins on his own. An impressive play-off victory against Olympique Lyonnais, 4-0 on aggregate, bodes well for him and his team.
Rafael Benítez (SSC Napoli)
A UEFA Cup winner with Valencia CF in 2004, the 53-year-old Spaniard has a special place in UEFA Champions League history having steered Liverpool to arguably the most spectacular comeback in a final. After that famous penalties success against Milan in 2005, when the Reds lifted the trophy despite being 3-0 down at half-time in Istanbul, Benítez helped Liverpool to another showpiece two years later. However, on that occasion, also against the Rossoneri, they lost 2-1. The following year Liverpool were semi-finalists but succumbed to Chelsea, the side Benítez guided to UEFA Europa League glory in 2013.
Nenad Bjelica (FK Austria Wien)
Having played half a dozen matches in the UEFA Cup with NK Osijek, as well as featuring twice for Real Betis Balompié in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Bjelica is no stranger to European football. However, this is a different stage altogether. The 42-year-old former Croatian international midfielder spent the last three seasons dragging Austrian outfit Wolfsberger AC from the third division to the first. He has since been rewarded with the Austria Wien job and a shot at Europe's premier club competition.
Laurent Blanc (Paris Saint-Germain FC)
After Blanc lifted the Ligue 1 title with FC Girondins de Bordeaux in 2009 – and subsequently took them to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals – in his first coaching role, he was swiftly fast-tracked to the France national team. Though he led Les Bleus to the last eight at UEFA EURO 2012, he left in the aftermath of the finals. The 47-year-old has Ancelotti's sizeable shoes to fill in the French capital, with ambitious PSG expecting to challenge both domestically and in Europe after another summer of notable investment.
Paulo Fonseca (FC Porto)
Still only 40, Fonseca was given this prestigious post following a historic season with FC Paços de Ferreira – directing the northern outfit to an unprecedented third-placed finish and shot at the UEFA Champions League play-offs. The Portuguese trainer – a journeyman defender as a player – is determined to follow in the footsteps of recent Porto predecessors such as José Mourinho, André Villas-Boas and Vítor Pereira. With no previous experience of European football, however, Fonseca will find himself thrown in at the deep end when Porto's group stage campaign begins.
Josep Guardiola (FC Bayern München)
A European Cup winner with FC Barcelona during distinguished playing days, Guardiola took his first steps into the coaching fraternity with the Azulgrana B team. The man known as 'Pep' was promoted to senior duty in 2008 and duly won the UEFA Champions League, Spanish Liga and Copa del Rey in his first term. Another UEFA Champions League title followed two years later before, in 2012, he stepped down citing a need to recharge the batteries. The 42-year-old now has the task of improving on Bayern's treble-winning 2012/13 under Jupp Heynckes – tough even for a man with Guardiola's CV.
Gerardo Martino (FC Barcelona)
At 50, Gerardo Martino is enjoying his first taste of European football as a coach. The Argentinian did have a brief stint as a player with CD Tenerife, but the challenge of the Barcelona hot seat carries an altogether different level of intensity. Successor to Tito Vilanova, who stepped down because of illness, Martino's first coaching glories came with title-winning tenures in Paraguay with Club Libertad and Club Cerro Porteño. Next he ushered the Paraguayan national side to the 2010 FIFA World Cup before achieving championship success with Argentina's CA Newell's Old Boys in 2013.
Jose Mourinho (Chelsea FC)
The 50-year-old has had a love affair with this competition ever since he piloted Porto all the way at his first attempt in 2004. He went close too during his initial spell at Chelsea, twice helping them to the last four, but in the end had to wait six years and for a move to FC Internazionale Milano before he could get his hands on the trophy again. It was his final act for the Italian team as he promptly joined Real Madrid, whom he then steered to three successive semi-finals to equal Sir Alex Ferguson's record of seven last-four appearances. Mourinho returned to Chelsea in June.
David Moyes (Manchester United FC)
'The Chosen One' read the banner unfurled at Old Trafford before David Moyes's first home game in charge. Replacing the peerless Sir Alex was always going to be a big ask for United, though picking Moyes – a man whose UEFA Champions League experience amounted to a third qualifying round tie with Everton FC in 2005/06 – raised a few eyebrows. Everton subsequently embarked on four UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League campaigns under the Scot but never advanced beyond the round of 16. No-nonsense Moyes, 50, will be in uncharted territory, surrounded by unprecedented expectation, when the group phase starts.
Manuel Pellegrini (Manchester City FC)
The man dubbed 'The Engineer' was called in to fix City's ills in the middle of June. Replacing Roberto Mancini, Pellegrini's even-handed approach should be ideal for bringing out the best in the bounty of talent at his disposal. The experienced Chilean plied his trade in South America until taking the Villarreal CF helm in 2004. He navigated the Yellow Submarine to the UEFA Champions semi-finals two years later, prior to having a single season on the Madrid bench. Pellegrini, 59, showed himself to be a master improviser at Málaga CF last term, getting to the quarter-finals in their maiden UEFA Champions League campaign.
Ståle Solbakken (FC København)
After a playing career cut short by a heart attack suffered in training, the 45-year-old Solbakken initially cut his teeth with Ham-Kam Fotball in his Norwegian homeland. If the former Norway midfielder's 2006 appointment by FCK was a surprise, he exceeded all expectations by collecting four Danish titles and twice escorting his charges into the UEFA Champions League group stage. Less successful periods with 1. FC Köln and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC followed, before this summer's return to the familiar surroundings of København.
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