Football: Hoddle builds Chelsea's vision of Europe: Continental action returns to Stamford Bridge after a painful absence of 23 years. Trevor Haylett reports

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EUROPEAN FOOTBALL has altered dramatically for English standard-bearers since Chelsea last embarked on their foreign travels 23 years ago. It has even changed much since Graham Rix, now youth team manager at Stamford Bridge, missed a penalty kick that cost Arsenal the 1980 Cup-Winners' Cup final.

It says everything, then, about the selection problems imposed on Glenn Hoddle as Chelsea reacquaint themselves with continental opposition that he is forced tonight to turn to Rix for a place in the squad to face Viktoria Zizkov of the Czech Republic.

Injuries have complicated the Uefa restriction on foreign players and left Hoddle alarmingly short of available bodies and with no suitable alternative to a former England international who, a month away from his 37th birthday, is admirably suited to the role of Chelsea pensioner. By all accounts, the silky left foot remains trusty, if a little rusty, while an outing in the reserves on Tuesday will have been a valuable refresher course in the demands of match play.

Between them, Hoddle and Rix can impart a wealth of European experience while Peter Shreeves, the Chelsea assistant who, like Hoddle, earned his spurs with Tottenham, has his own campaign medals to parade. In the dug-out few teams can match them, but tonight's Cup-Winners' Cup first round, first leg tie is a learning process for the majority of the team and also for the supporters, many of whom were not born when Dave Sexton last led the Blues out of the King's Road, destination Europe.

In 1971 Chelsea celebrated success in a replayed Cup-Winners' Cup final against Real Madrid to add to the FA Cup they had collected, again at the second attempt, 12 months earlier. It whetted The Shed's appetite for the glory, glory Euro nights that previously had been the preserve of their rivals in north London, but the heroes of a dramatic Athens night, Osgood and Hudson, Bonetti and Harris, were poorly served by those who came along later to take their place.

European ambition became less a possibility, more a pipedream, as Chelsea spent three frustrating spells out of the limelight and in the Second Division. A once great club had fallen on hard times as successive managers failed to rediscover the winning formula, while the fight off the field to secure their home proved a worrying distraction.

It all began to change when Hoddle took control 16 months ago. Now at the helm was a leader with an illustrious career behind him at home and abroad, who could offer Chelsea a reminder of a successful past and the promise of a glorious future. Here was a manager who could maintain a strong conviction of where he was going and how he would get there when others would tell him he had got it wrong.

A dismal run of form before Christmas in his first season suggested Hoddle was not gaining the right response to the sophisticated methods he absorbed during his years at White Hart Lane, and which were sharpened in the three seasons he spent with Monaco in the French League.

That impression was quickly overcome as Chelsea set off towards Wembley, the money accrued by their Cup run giving him sufficient funds to strengthen his squad in the summer with three (conveniently English) players of talent and unfulfilled ambition: Paul Furlong, David Rocastle and Scott Minto.

Ideally, Hoddle would play himself from the start, because in terms of patience and probing skills, of being able to organise his side, there is no one who does it better. An ankle injury from Saturday's first defeat at Newcastle is, however, restricting his mobility, while one of his two Scandinavian central defenders, Jakob Kjeldbjerg, has a back injury, making him doubtful. With only three foreigners permitted, Hoddle has to ditch two from five, who also include Dimitri Kharin, Erland Johnsen, Steve Clarke and John Spencer.

While Chelsea owe their place to Manchester United's double triumph, Viktoria's cup win at home came via a controversial penalty which video evidence later showed should not have been given. They are top of the Czech Republic's First Division; Shreeves has been to see them and has warned Hoddle to expect a rigid man- marking system.

The visitors' have their own injury problems. Their first-choice goalkeeper, Oldrich Parizek, broke a leg in the preliminary round and will be replaced by Daniel Zidka, a young man with only 60 minutes' service behind him in the senior side.

Chelsea will also want to leave nothing to chance tonight, so avoiding a strenuous examination in the second leg which, on police advice, is likely to be switched from Viktoria's home in Prague, where the capacity is a mere 3,500, to a larger ground at Jablonec, a small town on the Polish border.

(Photograph omitted)

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