LONDON, September 27 – Florent Malouda expects the lure of Champions League glory to help Chelsea rediscover their winning touch in Tuesday's clash with French champions Marseille.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side made a flying start to their domestic and European campaigns, but the Blues seem to have lost some of their sparkle in the last week as a surprise League Cup exit against Newcastle was followed by Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Manchester City.
That defeat at Eastlands ended Chelsea’s 100 percent start to their defence of the Premier League title, but France winger Malouda is confident there is no chance of the losing run extending to a third match.
Ever since Roman Abramovich made success in Europe his primary goal after buying Chelsea in 2003, the west London outfit have been engaged in a so-far fruitless search for the Russian billionaire’s holy grail.
A 2008 final defeat to Manchester United and several semi-final losses still rankle with many at Stamford Bridge and players and owner are united in their desire to finally win Europe’s elite club competition this time.
"It’s a big target for this club to win the European Cup," Malouda said. "Coming so close has been frustrating and we really do feel this is the year we can win it."
Malouda believes Chelsea’s strength in depth will allow them to cope with the demands of challenging for the Champions League, while Ancelotti’s experiences at AC Milan, where he won the trophy twice, are also a significant plus.
"The manager can put one team out on a Saturday and another out in the week. They would both be world class," Malouda said.
"I think our manager is one of the most proven managers there is. Every single player at the club is having a lot of fun playing under him and he wants the Champions League as much as us. This can be the season for us."
While Chelsea are favourites to beat Marseille at Stamford Bridge in their second group stage match, Malouda is well aware that Didier Deschamps’ team are capable of causing a shock.
Deschamps, who spent the 1999-2000 season as a player at Chelsea, led Marseille to their first French title for 18 years and the club’s supporters are hopeful of emulating the success of Lyon and Bordeaux, who both reached the Champions League quarter-finals last season.
With that in mind Malouda may be right to warn his team-mates not to underestimate Marseille.
"Marseille will be a difficult one because if you look at the recent years the French teams have done well in the Champions League," Malouda said.
"Last year they had two teams in the last eight. It is big for Marseille, they were champions last year and were waiting a long time, so they will want a good start.
"They won’t want to come to Stamford Bridge and lose 4-0 like Bordeaux did two years ago. I can tell you it will be difficult in both games. Over there it is a big atmosphere but we are used to that."
Meanwhile, Deschamps, 41, added: "Returning to Stamford Bridge will give me great pleasure. Although the stadium itself is renovated and much bigger, the wonderful ambience which I experienced remains.
"Chelsea have a very competitive European team with something like 20 internationals – a great compensation if you have injured or suspended players.
"Not only do Chelsea want to win this trophy, they are among four or five teams which can legitimately expect to do so.
"They won the Premier League title last season and are already performing really well."