Michael Essien is adamant Chelsea can go on to crown last season's double success by winning the UEFA Champions League title at last. The Ghana international has returned to the Blues' engine room after spending much of 2009/10 on the treatment table, with a knee injury that eventually cost him a trip to the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals South Africa™.
Carlo Ancelotti's side stormed to the Premier League title last term and then clinched their first-ever double with an FA Cup final victory over Portsmouth at Wembley. Now Essien believes Chelsea can progress from Group F, which also includes MSK Zilina, Spartak Moscow and Marseille, and go on to become the kings of Europe next May at the home of the England national team.
"We have set our targets as high as we possibly can, and the aim is to win every competition we enter," declared the 27-year-old. "We now have four trophies to go for and we are all focused on giving it 110 per cent.
"You cannot ask for more than three games played, three wins, with 14 goals scored and none conceded. That is the reason why I am excited about this season. The team has been together for the last four to five years, and the understanding is getting better each year.
"We cannot get carried away and have to keep working hard to win everything. As a player you get the inner feeling that something big is around the corner, and I feel the same way I felt last season when we won the double. However I am sure we can go one further and add the big one - the UEFA Champions League - to our collection of trophies.
"Everyone knows how much winning that will mean to us. As a team we have won every domestic trophy and so it's only natural that we have the hunger for the European trophy. That is not to say we don't care about the Premier League, FA Cup or Carling Cup. We want to win every competition we enter this season and we will do all we can to win them all."
Meanwhile, England midfielder Frank Lampard, currently sidelined with a hernia injury, has insisted winning the double has helped build the squad's collective confidence. He also believes Ancelotti's careful moves in the transfer market have been inspired.
Chelsea have brought in just two players - namely Yossi Benayoun and Ramires - and while they have lost a number of midfielders, particularly England's Joe Cole, Lampard is pleased with the continuity of the squad.
"Continuity is nice," said Lampard. "Especially when you have won a double but you do want to add to it and make it better, although at the same time you don't want to add to it and make it worse. There is an element of keeping what you've got and only adding if you are adding better or good squad players.
"Five first-team squad players have left but we have started off very well and we have to keep that going. If we get injuries to big players, we hope we have got the cover there. As a group, the double certainly has an effect on collective confidence. That is a big positive but the negative is if people think, 'we have won the double, let's rest on our laurels'.
"It is very important to keep the confidence but make sure that you never get the feeling that we can easily do that again. The moment you think that then you won't win anything else, so it is a balancing act."
Ancelotti has been abroad this week for a brainstorming session. The Italian was in attendance at the 12th UEFA Elite Club Coaches Forum in Switzerland, where he was joined by former Chelsea managers Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri, Marseille's Didier Deschamps, Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Hodgson of Liverpool.
Also in attendence were Barcelona's Pep Guardiola, Auxerre's Jean Fernandez, Schalke's Felix Magath, Benfica's Jorge Jesus, Lyon's Claude Puel, Malaga's Jesualdo Ferreira, Basel's Thorsten Fink, Ajax's Martin Jol, Werder Bremen's Thomas Schaaf and Nikos Nioplias of Panathinaikos.