Chelsea have found themselves an unlikely ally in the form of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who has backed the Blues to be a major threat to his side's hopes of retaining the Barclays Premier League title.
Fresh from Red Devils first-team coach Rene Meulensteen's comments about manager Andre Villas-Boas' squad being too old to provide any real competition for the domestic crown this season, Ferguson spoke of his respect for the Chelsea squad.
"They have tremendous experience with the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech,John Terry, Alex, Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres," he said. "There aren't any young kids in that team.
"But they don't have 36 or 37-year-olds like Ryan Giggs. Lampard and Drogba are 33, Anelka is 32 - not dissimilar to [Michael] Carrick and Rio Ferdinand.
"And we wouldn't be saying they are dead and buried, would we? So why should they be? They'll still be a big threat and we expect them to challenge."
United may have had the upper hand in recent encounters against the west Londoners, but when the two sides meet later this month, it will be the first time that Ferguson will come up against the new Chelsea manager.
The Portuguese tactician came to England with quite a reputation following a successful spell in charge of Porto, but by his own admission, Ferguson admits he doesn't know a great deal about the Stamford Bridge successor.
"I don't know much about him," he added. "He has a different set-up there to me, but I'm sure he'll get plenty of advice from others and he'll do fine.
"He's a young man and it's a big step coming into the Premier League from the Portuguese championship, but given time and support anything is possible."
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