Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ranieri Faces Up to a New Future; Chelsea V Stuttgart, Champions League First Knockout Round, Second Leg

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ranieri Faces Up to a New Future; Chelsea V Stuttgart, Champions League First Knockout Round, Second Leg

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN DYER;MATT HUGHES

IT CAN'T be easy looking into the future when all the smart money indicates you haven't got one but Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri is not the kind of man to shirk the opportunity.

Ranieri took time out from preparing his team for their vital Champions League match against Stuttgart tonight to pay his tribute to departed chairman Ken Bates, but then put things into some sort of perspective when he added: "Now it is time to look forward. The future of this club is Mr (Roman) Abramovich."

Whether Ranieri will also be part of the long-term future of this blue-chip club is questionable but this dignified Italian has had his fill of answering questions about that particular subject. All he can do is hope his team does as well as it can over the next couple of months and let things take their course.

Second place behind Arsenal in the Premiership is a realistic ambition and tonight, with a 1-0 lead from the first knockout round, first leg in Germany, Chelsea can also move a significant step nearer Champions League glory. It would be a huge disappointment for Ranieri should Chelsea, after doing all the hard work in Stuttgart, mess it up tonight.

Some of the Chelsea coach's most memorable nights this season have been in this pinnacle European club competition and a quarterfinal place or better would keep everyone happy and look impressive on his CV.

First though, Ranieri's team must overcome a Stuttgart side whose coach, Felix Magath, believes can exploit a certain vulnerability at the Bridge. The Bundesliga team have been in the doldrums since they returned from their winter break but last weekend they showed much improved form when they beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0.

"I am relieved," said Magath. "We finally managed to score again and we won.

It has been a long time since we scored away from home and it was visible that the team desperately wanted to win. It is great to do so before travelling to London. I still believe we can win there even after losing the first leg.

"We knew Chelsea would be hard to beat away from home and so far this season no team in the Champions League has done it. …

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