The 12-hour flight to Malaysia was the first of Chelsea's season and they would hope to end it with a rather shorter one to Munich in May. In the first weeks of his tenure at Stamford Bridge, Andre Villas-Boas has been keen to play down the importance of his role but on one thing he is adamant – sooner rather than later Chelsea will win the Champions League.
"The pressure on Chelsea to win the Champions League is always legitimate," he said on arrival in Kuala Lumpur. "There has been a great consistency about the teams who have reached the last four over the past six or seven years. Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea have got regularly into semi-finals and finals. Our club played one magnificent final; we lost but when you get to semi-finals and finals anything can happen. For sure, one day the trophy will arrive at this club."
It was Jose Mourinho's failure to bring the trophy his employer, Roman Abramovich, most craved as much as the perceived dullness of the football his sides played that cost Villas-Boas's mentor his job in September 2007. All his successors, bar Luiz Filipe Scolari have gone close and none was nearer than the much-derided figure of Avram Grant. But for some bizarre refereeing decisions by Tom Henning Ovrebo in the semi-final, Guus Hiddink's Chelsea rather than Pep Guardiola's Barcelona would have faced Manchester United in the final in Rome two years ago.
The challenge domestically, let alone in Europe, will be tougher. For the first time in several summers Manchester United have been spending big. Villas-Boas said: "I cannot control the transfer market. What I understand is that from now, year after year Manchester City will be challenging for the championship. We have to prepare ourselves for that."
The man sitting beside him on the podium thought Chelsea would be very well prepared. Like all the senior members of the squad, Frank Lampard knows that they should have secured a second successive championship rather than seen a United side that was merely highly-efficient seize their 19th title by nine points.
"They have been very active and spent fortunes or good quality players," said Lampard. "But we know we have a very good squad. The manager wants us to come on tour so he can evaluate what he's got. We are going to be very strong next season and, however much Manchester United spend, we still believe in ourselves. In the Abramovich era we had six or seven very successful years. You can't win every year; that's obvious. But credit to Manchester United, they deserved to win the league and I don't think anyone in this room would dispute that Barcelona deserved to win the European Cup. Our problems came in the middle of the season when we couldn't get our focus right. This season will be about keeping our eye on the ball."
What must seem strange to Lampard is that his manager is a mere eight months older than he is, although the England midfielder thought what was most interesting was his approach in training. "I think the fact that Andre is young is irrelevant," he said. "There is a nice freshness, a new style and new training methods from last year. His quality is important, however. You saw that at Porto and we know his ideals are very similar to what we had at Chelsea before. On the training ground it has been a bit different to what we are used to. There is some discipline and some rules that are important. He doesn't want to lay down too many laws but he expects us to understand the laws without having to tell us."Reuse content