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Serie A
By ESPN Staff

Ronaldinho glad to have drawn Chelsea

Barcelona star Ronaldinho has expressed his relief at playing Chelsea in the group stages of this season's Champions League. Following yesterday's draw in Monaco, Blues manager Jose Mourinho's side face Barca in European football's premier club competition for the third successive season.

On the previous two occasions the meetings have been in the last 16, and turned into hostile affairs with no love lost.

This time around the two teams are in Group A, along with German side Werder Bremen and first-timers to the tournament, Bulgarian champions Levski Sofia.

But it is the renewed rivalry between Chelsea and reigning European Cup holders Barca that will again capture the imagination.

World player of the year and Barcelona star Ronaldinho again knows no quarter will be given, but is happy to take on Chelsea early.

'Chelsea have always been very difficult opponents in past seasons,' said Ronaldinho.

'Both teams have world-class players, and with the way we know each other we are going to have to put a lot into the two games.

'But I think it's better we meet Chelsea now as they're such a strong team, rather than having to cope with them later.

'At least we can both go through. It gives you impetus, but we cannot discount Werder Bremen because they are also a strong team.'

In particular, Ronaldinho has noted the additions at Stamford Bridge of Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko, and added: ``Chelsea will be stronger still.

'They have signed high-quality players, so they will certainly be stronger than last season and that will make things more difficult for us.''

Ronaldinho, though, was left to lament Barca's failure to sign close friend Thierry Henry from Arsenal to strengthen the Catalan giants' chances of retaining the trophy.

Henry was strongly linked with a move to the Nou Camp last season before finally signing a new four-year contract with the Gunners.

But Brazil striker Ronaldinho has not given up hope of working with the France international.

He remarked: 'It was disappointing (Barca did not sign Henry).

'There were great expectations amongst the fans who were placing a lot of hopes on his arrival.

'He is one of the best strikers in the world, and a friend of mine, but we have now signed other players.

'I wish him all the best and maybe one of these days we will play together.'

Even without Henry, though, Ronaldinho feels Barcelona can retain the trophy, and become the first team in Champions League history to do so.

'No one has ever done it before, and we want to go into history by becoming the first team to do it again,' added Ronaldinho.