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By ESPN Staff

Grant facing uphill struggle to win over Blues stars

Marcel Desailly fears new Chelsea coach Avram Grant will struggle to build the love and respect that was afforded to Jose Mourinho by the current Blues stars.

Grant takes charge of his first Premier League match today with a high-profile clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford just three days following Mourinho's shock departure.

It promises to be a baptism of fire for former Israel coach Grant, with former Chelsea captain Desailly admitting his surprise at the appointment.

'The players are professionals and have to perform no matter who is the coach, but I know the players are very disappointed,' Desailly told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek.

To follow in Mourinho's footsteps will be 'very difficult' according to Desailly, who added: 'Mourinho was really loved by the players. When I spoke to them they were always talking about Mourinho and the way he protected them when they were in trouble. Psychologically he was a good client for the players. He knew how to motivate them.

'Grant will have a different approach. He maybe will not be loved by the players like Mourinho, but at least he will try to ensure they are professional for them to perform on the pitch.

'He's also had success in the past, not at the level or prestige of Chelsea. But he's had time so see what is going on in the club, and he is part of the Chelsea family, so because of that let's give him a chance.

'The approach Grant will have is that the past doesn't matter now, it's the future. He is the one in charge, so let's go forward. The reaction should be a positive one.

'Most of the time when clubs change coaches, no matter whether the coach has experience or not, there is still a good reaction from the players in the following games.'

France World Cup winner Desailly feels Grant is likely go with two strikers up front in a bid to play the entertaining brand of football so sought after by owner Roman Abramovich.

Yet Desailly insists Abramovich did not interfere in team affairs during his time at Stamford Bridge, adding: 'I have a lot of respect for him.

'I had the possibility to be close to him because I was Chelsea captain during the year he arrived.

'After every game he would ask if there was a problem, if we were happy. You can see the guy is passionate and he loves football.

'Football is his reason for life. He crosses Europe and the world to watch a football match.

'He loves the game, and he wants the crowd to be entertained and enjoy their football, and maybe that is why there is now a change at Chelsea.

'Mourinho never went to clash with Abramovich. I know he was annoyed by the pressure from the press these past days and weeks.

'Maybe he reacted for the first time on a question from Abramovich and maybe Abramovich became annoyed, so they made the decision to separate and find another solution.'