Chelsea FC are taking nothing for granted ahead of their home match with VfB Stuttgart.
By Trevor Haylett in London
Chelsea FC are in the driving seat as they prepare for the return leg against VfB Stuttgart holding a 1-0 advantage. Yet no one at Stamford Bridge is contemplating anything other than a difficult game. "All German teams are very dangerous," warned Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri.
Ranieri believes his team will need to score another goal to take their place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for a second time. "We must score," he said. "We will play to score again."
The Italian knows it is unlikely his team will be blessed with the same good fortune which came their way two weeks ago in the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion when only Fernando Meira's own goal divided the teams. Indeed the visitors did not manage a single shot on target as Stuttgart dominated proceedings.
Return to form
A sign that last year's Bundesliga runners-up are rediscovering their potent early-season form came last weekend with their 2-0 away victory against BV Borussia Dortmund, only their second win in 13 fixtures at home and abroad. "I watched that game and Stuttgart played well," said Ranieri. "They are a dangerous team. We won 1-0 in Germany and I hope it is enough but the tie is not finished yet."
Although Adrian Mutu is still recovering from a sore hip the Romanian striker is expected to be fit to play, with only Juan Sebastian Verón, Emmanuel Petit and Mario Stanic unavailable to Ranieri. Damien Duff is in line to start a game for the first time since 20 December and Ranieri is excited at the influence the Irishman can have on a team for whom the Champions League now represents their most realistic chance of winning a trophy this season.
"Damien is an amazing player," Ranieri said. "He gives to the team his ability, his spirit [and] his quality. He dribbles and crosses very well and when he is in the middle of the pitch he can make a final pass for the strikers. He is a man who can beat anybody and that is important to the team. I want him to play like he can."
For Stuttgart to go through they must reverse the course of history, having lost all three their of their previous matches on English soil. Another inhibiting factor is Chelsea's defensive record; the London team have not conceded a goal in their last four Champions League fixtures.
England defender John Terry said that while many in the Chelsea lineup are newcomers to the competition – in which the club itself has appeared only once before - there is a genuine belief that they could go all the way. "Deep down every player believes we can win the trophy," Terry said. "You have got to have that confidence."
Despite the formidable task ahead, Felix Magath has a full-strength squad to choose from and is in confident mood after a clear-the-air dinner preceded his side's return to form. "We are pleased to have got back to our old ways," he said. "Our strength is back and we are in good spirit."
"We are fully aware that Chelsea are an excellent team but they have not been without their problems here," the Stuttgart coach said. "They suffered a 2-0 home defeat [against Besiktas JK] in the Champions League and that is the same result that we need. Naturally we hoped for a better result in Stuttgart but we still believe we have a good chance of going through."