Champions League: Chelsea's new project bearing fruit

London: It is a sign of the changed days at Stamford Bridge that Chelsea go into a Champions League clash with Valencia on Tuesday as the example of stability and long-term planning.

The Europa League winners return to European football's top tier under new management in Frank Lampard and having ushered in a new era where youth will be given its chance to shine rather than depending on the deep pockets of Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

There have been a few early bumps in the road for Lampard, a returning hero for the fans after scoring a club record 211 goals and winning 13 trophies, including Chelsea's only Champions League crown, as a player.

A 4-0 opening day defeat to Manchester United and blowing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at home to newly-promoted Sheffield United exposed the frailties in relying on an inexperienced core of players. But Lampard's faith in youth has largely been justified.

Led by a hat-trick from Tammy Abraham, Chelsea thrashed Wolves 5-2 on Saturday to move level with United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester in the early race for Champions League football again next season.

Fikayo Tomori also struck his first goal for the club at Molineux, while Mason Mount continued the form that earned him an England call-up with his third goal in five games.

All 11 league goals scored by Chelsea so far this season have now come from that trio, all of whom have graduated through the club's academy but were shipped out on loan under previous managers.

"They should aspire and feel the opportunity is there if they deserve it, and they should see their team-mates doing really well and want to get in there," said Lampard.

Liverpool eye Istanbul return

Jurgen Klopp has warned Liverpool that retaining the Champions League will be even harder than their incredible march to victory in Madrid last season. Klopp's side start their bid to win a seventh European Cup with a trip to Napoli for their Group E opener on Tuesday.

The Reds have reached the last two Champions League finals, beating Tottenham in the Spanish capital in June after losing to Real Madrid 12 months earlier.

But Klopp believes Liverpool face a daunting task to make it to the final in Istanbul's Ataturk Stadium, a venue which carries extra resonance for the club after they won the 2005 Champions League with an astonishing comeback against AC Milan in the same stadium.

Before Liverpool can dream of emulating Steven Gerrard and company's triumph by the banks of the Bosphorus, Klopp knows they will have to run the gauntlet in what he expects to be a fiercely contested tournament. Napoli are expected to pose the sternest test to Liverpool in a group which also includes unfancied Salzburg and Genk.

Carlo Ancelotti's team came within a whisker of ending Liverpool's European campaign in the group stage last season when Alisson Becker's superb late save denied Arkadiusz Milik to preserve a 1-0 win at Anfield that sent the Reds into the last 16 at the expense of Napoli.

Even if Liverpool should advance to the knockout rounds without so much drama this season, Klopp is wary of the restocked superpowers certain to be lying in wait in the latter stages.

"I will have no problem with it (reaching the final) if it happens again, but at this moment I am not too sure it will," he said when the draw was made in August.

While Liverpool will always have a special relationship with the Champions League after the club's dominance of the competition in the 1970s and 1980s, it is not hard to believe that some die-hard Kopites would happily exchange their continental supremacy for a season of domestic bliss.