New Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud is relishing the prospect of playing Champions League football once again after his deadline-day switch from Arsenal.
The Frenchman watched from the stands at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening as his new side suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth just hours after ending his six-year spell with the Gunners.
Although the result damages the Premier League champions’ top-four hopes this season, the 31-year-old is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to return to European football’s top competition in February.
The Blues face a two-legged last-16 tie with Spanish giants Barcelona, with the first game in London on February 20.
Giroud, who scored three goals in six games during Arsenal’s Europa League campaign this season, told Chelsea TV: “The Champions League is massive for a football player. There is nothing above it when you’re playing for a club.
“There will be two nice games against Barcelona. We know their qualities and I think everybody will need to be 100 per cent to go through.
“It will be very exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”
Giroud’s switch to Chelsea on an 18-month contract coincided with a loan move to Borussia Dortmund for Blues striker Michy Batshuayi.
With 12-goal Spain international Alvaro Morata currently sidelined with a back injury, Giroud, who scored 105 goals in 253 appearances for Arsenal, is the only recognised striker available to manager Antonio Conte.
The former Montpellier man said his new coach was a major factor in his decision to move across London.
“The most important thing was talking with the coach. I felt like he really wanted me and he really wanted to work with me,” Giroud added.
“I wanted to sign for Chelsea and nowhere else. I really wanted to play more. I wanted to stay in the Premier League, and Chelsea for me is perfect because I can even stay in London.
“But the first reason is the sporting challenge. That has always been my first priority. Everything is here for me to be happy.”
In the absence of a centre-forward against the Cherries, Conte deployed play-maker Eden Hazard in the middle of a front three, with Pedro and recent signing Ross Barkley supporting from wider positions.
Giroud and fellow new recruit Emerson Palmieri were presented to the crowd at half-time, but Conte was unwilling to talk about his new forward following the surprise loss.
“Now is not the right moment to speak about Giroud, especially after a bad defeat,” he said.
Asked if the striker can make a difference, the Italian replied: “I hope, I hope.”
Second-half goals from Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas and Nathan Ake sealed a victory Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe described as the finest of his managerial career.