LONDON: Joe Cole admits Chelsea will go in the Champions League final against Manchester United in the unusual position of being underdogs.
There are not many occasions when the Stamford Bridge billionaires have to play second fiddle to their opponents, but Cole believes United?s Premier League title success means they are favourites to win in Moscow on May 21.
However the England winger?s downbeat verdict came laced with a warning for Sir Alex Ferguson?s side.
Although Chelsea were pipped to the English crown on the last day of the season, Avram Grant?s team have been in fine form and Cole insists it would be foolish to underestimate the Blues.
?We will be going in as underdogs, of course, because they have got the championship. But also the people at United will be looking at Chelsea and thinking with all the injury problems and turmoil which the club has had to deal with this year, we finished just two points behind them,? Cole said.
?The Champions League final is the top of the mountain, the benchmark for any club. To win it is a massive achievement and we?re determined to do it.
?We are not too interested in plaudits - you want trophies. We fought United all the way and we are disappointed not to have won, but credit has to go to the whole squad and everyone around the place who have kept it going, shown real steel and determination.?
Chelsea?s first Champions League final appearance offers the perfect chance to avenge United?s title triumph and salvage a season that could be their first without a trophy since 2004.
But Cole is adamant the campaign will have been a success regardless of the result in Russia and he expects to return to any even stronger squad next season.
?There are people who will say if you win one game you are a god, and if you lose one game then you are the biggest duffer to have ever played football,? Cole said.
?If you look back at it, with all that has happened, you have to say the club is going in the right direction whatever happens in Moscow.
?If we were to win Wednesday night, then we would be going full speed ahead again.
?The owner and his money have given us the opportunity to be in this position together. We appreciate that and just want to get the job done for all the fans and for everyone around us at the club.?
While Cole can afford to be relatively sanguine about Chelsea?s future, boss Grant must be slightly more concerned about the repercussions of returning home empty-handed.
The club?s chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Peter Kenyon both recently passed up the chance to guarantee Grant will still be in charge next season, giving the impression that a defeat could be the signal for a more high-profile manager to take his place.
Cole insists Grant can cope with the strain. He said: ?It is part and parcel of being a manager or a footballer. There is always someone ready to have a pop at you.
?I don?t pay any attention to what those people think of me, and I am sure Avram doesn?t either. He has got broad shoulders. ?We all want to win it for our own reasons, but mainly for the club with everyone pulling in the right way.
?The people in charge are doing a great job and we are going in the right direction.?
Whatever the result in Russia, Cole suspects Chelsea could be back in the final soon as Premier League clubs continue to dominate the competition.
Although this is the first all-English final, it is also the fourth year in a row there has been representation from England in Europe?s biggest club match.
?I think it does show how strong the Premier League is and has been so for the past five years,? he said. ?If you look at how the English teams have done in Europe, it has been phenomenal really.
Now our players and clubs are getting that experience, I can see us dominating for a long time.? (AFP)