Blanc reverses psychology as Scolari loses his cool

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The Independent Online

He may be a relative novice in management – he was appointed Bordeaux coach only last year – but Laurent Blanc has certainly learnt how to tweak the noses of his opponents. Yesterday the 42-year-old said simply that with the money backing Chelsea "even I might be able to put together a team that could win the European Cup".

Given that Blanc's statement of self-deprecation and coolness under pressure followed a first flash of temper from Luiz Felipe Scolari, who bridled at suggestions that he had to win the Champions League in order to guarantee he would be able to see out his two-year contract at Stamford Bridge, it came with mischievous timing.

Blanc went further. "But, in spite of that," the former Manchester United defender said. "They [Chelsea] have still not managed to win the Champions League." He then added that Chelsea "needed" to win the competition and said that "managers are becoming almost like puppets" in England, in view of the propensity of billionaire owners.

It was a forceful performance from the Frenchman – maybe a lesson he had learnt from Sir Alex Ferguson – and nicely undercut Scolari, which is not something that happens very often. "You are wrong," Scolari said bluntly when told that his predecessors – Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant – had all lost their jobs after failing to bring home the European Cup. "You don't know the history. I know why."

When pushed to share that information Scolari said he would – but only in Portuguese. When told that there was a professional translator present, sitting two places to his left, Scolari declined to elaborate but there was annoyance in his eyes. Strictly speaking, he was right, of course. Neither Mourinho nor Grant left because of failing in this competition – although it was a factor – while the decision to part with Ranieri was taken before that infamous "suicide" semi-final away to Monaco.

It would have pricked Scolari's pride, given his reputation and record of serial success, to have his future talked about in such blunt terms. "Look, I don't talk with Roman Abramovich about Champions League," he added. "I talk with Mr Roman about Chelsea. Chelsea. About all the competitions. Not about a, b or c."

"A", though, is this trophy at Chelsea and, after they came so agonisingly close to winning it in Moscow in May, Scolari knows that the only way to eradicate that failure is for John Terry to lift the cup in Rome next year.

Unsurprisingly, Scolari said he had not spoken to the players about the defeat to Manchester United on penalties. There is no need to. After all, what could he say? What will provide more inspiration is the fact that they have the Brazilian as their manager now, a man who twice won the South American equivalent of this competition, the Copa Libertadores, with Gremio in 1995 and Palmeiras in 1999.

Scolari conceded that the Champions League may be a trickier proposition, however. "Here we have more clubs who are stronger," he said. "There, there are two or three countries which every year are in the final. Here there are different countries. There are more countries and more quality."

Last season two English teams were in the final – not that Scolari would be drawn regarding Arsenal, Liverpool or United as Chelsea's main rivals: "All the teams are dangerous. Now the most difficult is Bordeaux." So what did he know about tonight's opponents in Chelsea's opening Group A game? "Everything," he said.

It was clearly a question designed to trip up a man who has been immersed in Portuguese football these past few years and before that an itinerant career that took in Kuwait and Japan as well as Brazil. How much could he know about the team that finished second in Ligue 1 last term? But Scolari hit back hard – reeling off a list of Bordeaux players and his links to them. It helped that Wendel, Fernando, Henrique and Jussie are all Brazilian, while Fernando Cavenaghi is Argentinian, but the point was made.

Asked where he will juggle his resources tonight, with United coming to the Bridge this weekend, Scolari was equally direct. "Sunday, I don't know," he said. "Maybe I will be dead." With Michael Essien injured, Michael Ballack is fit again while the red card gained by Didier Drogba against United is irritating, given he has recovered from his damaged knee.

Chelsea will have to do without Steve Clarke. West Ham United last night agreed a compensation package of £1.2m for the Scot to become No 2 to Gianfranco Zola at Upton Park. Clarke will be a loss, too, for Chelsea who will today hear, from a Football Association regulatory commission, the verdict of their appeal against Terry's dismissal during Saturday's win over Manchester City.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1) (probable): Cech; Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Mikel; J Cole, Lampard, Deco, Malouda; Anelka.

Bordeaux (4-2-3-1) (probable): Rame; Jurietti, Diawara, Planus, Placente; Diarra, Menegazzo; Gouffran, Gourcuff, Wendel; Chamakh.

Referee: P Vink (Netherlands).

Bordeaux's player to watch

*Yoann Gouffran

At 5ft 9in this 22-year-old predatory French forward is remarkably good in the air. Can be a problem at set pieces.

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