The suspicion that Leeds United may this year struggle to repeat their European heroics of last season's Champions' League has gained ground after their lacklustre performance on Thursday in losing 1-0 to the middle-ranking Portuguese side Maritimo in the first leg of their Uefa Cup first-round tie on Madeira.
Given that their manager, David O'Leary, has been told the Champions' League is the only competition for the club to be in next season, the alarm bells are not ringing at Elland Road. Only the Premiership counts.
Nevertheless, O'Leary would still love to emulate last season's feat of his friend Gérard Houllier and his Liverpool side by lifting the Uefa Cup come May and was irritated by Thursday's performance.
"Of course, I'd love it to be third time lucky for us this season. But my priority is to be talking again next year before a Champions' League game," O'Leary said. "So my aim, and that of all the players, is to be in that competition next season."
Eidur Gudjohnsen's ambitions are not so bold; he wants a regular starting place at Chelsea. The Iceland striker staked his claim by scoring twice in Thursday's 3-0 victory over Levski Sofia, but he was brought back to earth by the news that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who had a European suspension, has avoided a similar fate domestically and can play against Middlesbrough tomorrow.
"Why should I recall Jimmy?" was the teasing comment of Chelsea's manager, Claudio Ranieri, who has described Gudjohnsen as "the future of Chelsea". But the striker said: "I just hope that the future is now. I'm not that young now, I'm 23, and like everyone else, I want to play every week. I did my best to show I'm capable of playing and that the manager can have confidence in me if he does pick me."Reuse content