Chelsea FC coach Avram Grant predicted there would be few surprises as his side prepared to meet Manchester United FC in the final of the UEFA Champions League.
Grant faced United in his first match in charge of Chelsea on 23 September, and though he lost that encounter at Old Trafford, his team gained revenge with an impressive victory at Stamford Bridge at the end of last month. Now tackling Sir Alex Ferguson's side on the biggest club stage of all, the Israeli said the two teams knew each other inside out. "On the tactical side, I don't think there will be any surprises," he said. "We know the possibilities they can play and they know about us ... You can prepare yourself for many situations but you do not know exactly how the game will be."
Whatever the situation, Grant has match-winners capable of turning the game. He praised midfielder Michael Ballack for the role he had played in giving Chelsea's season fresh impetus since returning from injury – "especially in the big games, he knows what to do" – and captain John Terry for the character he had shown throughout the campaign. "We had some difficult times and [during] these times you saw the captain. He is a great captain and he is one of the reasons we are here, why we are fighting for the Champions League when no one expected it."
Terry was not the only leader Grant revealed his respect for on Tuesday. Quizzed about photos he kept in his office, the 53-year-old disclosed: "I like to learn from leaders – I have pictures of Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Anwar Sadat, also Michael Jordan, Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. They were great people because they go their own way until the end. But I also have a sign in my room that reads: 'If you do not enjoy the process, you are not a happy man."
It has been quite a process for Grant since he replaced José Mourinho in September. Having proved his critics wrong by taking Chelsea further than they had been before in Europe, he was enjoying the moment. Muscovites have flocked to Red Square to see the UEFA Champions League trophy for themselves and a lucky few even caught a glimpse of the Chelsea squad as they took a stroll in the Russian capital. Reaching the final in Moscow, Grant said, was "a dream" for the club's Russian owner Roman Abramovich and, unsurprisingly, the Blues had been made to feel right at home. "We feel at home," Grant said. "We started to walk today but we couldn't walk for more than ten minutes. It is a nice feeling."
'Most important game'
The nicest feeling of all, of course, would be to win on Wednesday. It has been a long road for the Israeli to travel this far, from humble beginnings as a youth-team coach at Hapoel Petach-Tikva FC. Hence his determination to make the most of it. "I only wanted to be a good coach for the youth team and do my job, but it is the same now I am here. I want to do my job. It was a dream but slowly, slowly, when you come here it is a game you want to win. This is the most important game."
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