Essien: Blues ready for long Euro road

MICHAEL ESSIEN accepts Chelsea still have plenty of hard work ahead of them as the Barclays Premier League leaders set their sights on conquering Europe.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have started the new campaign in the way they finished the last, with a 100% record from their opening four games, and have conceded just one goal.

Chelsea embark on the quest to lift the European Cup at Wembley in May with a trip to Slovakian minnows MSK Zilina tomorrow, where the Blues could be without both captain John Terry, because of a rib injury, and midfielder Frank Lampard, just back from a hernia operation, as well as the suspended Didier Drogba.

While the desire for Champions League success burns as fierce as ever, both within the squad and the boardroom, plenty of challenges lie ahead, with Marseille and Spartak Moscow still to come in Group F.

“We still have a lot to do,” said Essien, who netted a brace in Saturday’s 3-1 win at West Ham.

“The season is very long, but we have played some good football and are scoring a lot of goals – we have to keep going like that.”

Ancelotti has won the European Cup four times, twice as player and again as coach when he guided AC Milan to Champions League glory in 2003 and 2007.

The 51-year-old Italian would like nothing better than to emulate that feat with Chelsea.

“It’s the competition which has given me the most satisfaction in my career, both as a player and as a coach, so it has a very special importance for me to take part in and to win it,” said Ancelotti, whose side went out in the last 16 to eventual winners Inter Milan, and a certain Jose Mourinho last season.

“Everyone knows the importance of this trophy. A London team hasn’t won the Champions League, but this season there is a better chance with three teams in the competition and the final at Wembley so for London it is a special year. Given that we won the Championship last year, it would be great to win something in Europe as well as at home.”

Chelsea have met Zilina once before, in the 2002/03 Champions League qualifier, which the English side won 5-0 on aggregate.

The Slovakians had to come through three preliminary rounds to make the group stages, knocking out Sparta Prague.


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