Despite José Mourinho lamenting the loss of key personnel, Chelsea FC will be favourites to make it six opening-night wins in succession against Rosenborg BK.
There are those who say Chelsea FC have to win the UEFA Champions League this season if they are to attain the status of a true European power – but for manager José Mourinho, they cannot afford to look any further than the first game of the campaign at home to Rosenborg BK.
Key duo out
It is not the fact that the London club, semi-finalists in three of the last four seasons, are without the injured Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, two of their star performers in last term's competition, that brings a note of caution to Mourinho's words. He believes there are dangers in fixing horizons too far in the distance. "I cannot look so far ahead because we play competitions at the same time," the Portuguese said. "I can't put one competition in front of another because I don't want to take risks on the players' motivation.
"So now the motivation is completely on the Champions League for the game against Rosenborg. That's the way I approach my season – game after game, competition after competition. Every game is to win and when we don't win we are not happy." Mourinho acknowledges that the loss of Drogba (knee) and Lampard (thigh) is serious, especially as he is also missing Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho, Claudio Pizarro and Wayne Bridge. "When you speak about Drogba and Lampard, maybe you are talking about more than 50 per cent of the goals the team has scored," he said. "For me, the problem is not to have three or four players injured, but which three or four are injured.
"Drogba, Lampard, Ballack and Carvalho ... you are speaking about 40 per cent of the team, you are speaking about the spine of the team. After that you go for Pizarro, he's the second target man on the team, so should be the direct replacement for Didier, and he's out too." Nevertheless, Chelsea – despite the injuries, despite the stuttering domestic form which has seen them drop five Premier League points in their last two matches – will be strong favourites to begin on a winning note as they have done in each of the last five campaigns.
Mourinho has had the Norwegian champions – whose own European bid commenced in the second qualifying round – watched several times and says they will be "compact, solid, defending well and trying to punish us on the counter". Their attacking players, he added, have "quality, speed and creativity". In contrast, opposing coach Knut Tørum can name a first-choice lineup, one thing that is in Rosenborg's favour as they attempt to make light of the difference in class.
Tørum, who has both Roar Strand and Alexander Tettey fit after thigh strains, said: "We have to take away Chelsea's strength, speed and power which is at a higher level than we normally face in Norway, but at the same time carry out our own attacks so we don't just allow Chelsea to keep coming at us. But the group is so strong it will be very difficult for us to go through." Rosenborg, who count on former Tottenham Hotspur FC forward Steffen Iversen, also have one point to show from their last two league outings, leaving them fifth – 13 points off the lead – after 20 rounds.