Niko Kovac is relishing his Champions League debut as Bayern Munich boss in a competition where he expects the usual suspects to hold sway.
Bayern are away to Benfica on Wednesday and former Croatia boss Kovac acknowledges expectations are typically high for the Bundesliga champions.
"I look forward to it. Every single player, club and coach wants to be there," he told Goal, with Ajax and AEK still to come in Group E.
"The expectation in Munich is always high, but I also have this expectation of myself and my players. I was aware of that when I signed with Bayern. The group we've been allocated is very attractive and not easy."
Real Madrid begin their pursuit of a fourth consecutive European title at home to Roma without Cristiano Ronaldo, whose decorated association with the competition continues as Juventus take on Valencia.
"That Real has won the title three times in a row is unique. I do not think that will happen again in the near future," Kovac said.
"Real has changed without Cristiano Ronaldo but is still a very good team. It's great to win the Champions League three times, but it's also important to remember that they only won the Spanish championship once in the three years.
"This shows that it is very difficult to do well in all three competitions. But I am convinced that Real will play a very good role again this year."
Kovac believes the financial power of Europe's heavyweight clubs dictates they will again be in the battle for honours.
"You have already mentioned the usual suspects: for me, these are the Spanish representatives Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona. The English are always good," he said, with Liverpool having secured a dramatic 3-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
"PSG and Juventus are favourites too. It is difficult for smaller teams to progress beyond the last 16. The big clubs have a lot more money, the stars in their ranks and a higher quality.
"In one game you can overcome the collective, but in two games the quality usually prevails. That's why I think the bigger teams will eventually reach the quarter-finals."
Lionel Messi was typically brilliant as Barcelona launched their campaign with a 4-0 win over PSV, netting a hat-trick.
Despite recent UEFA and FIFA awards nominations snubs, Kovac believes the Argentinian superstar still sets the standard in the world game.
"For me, Lionel Messi is the best," he added. "It used to be that way, and it will continue to be so in the future.
"Ronaldo is also a world-class player. His style impresses me. This is not innate, but trained. You have a lot of players with natural talent, but you have to develop your own talent.
"That's what Ronaldo did in a fantastic way. Mohamed Salah and Luka Modric were also great last year.
"The further back you play, the less you get into the limelight. But individual class ultimately decides the games."
|Seattle´s playoff spot on hold after Seahawks suffer OT loss to 49ers|
|Cheika survives as Wallabies coach, Johnson appointed|
|Vikings remain in NFC playoff picture|
|Steelers stay ahead as Patriots lose AFC´s second seed|
|Lionel Messi is the best, says Amor|
|I´m still tired just looking at Robertson – Mourinho in awe of Liverpool intensity|
|Casillas takes swipe at Mourinho after United lose to Liverpool|
|Valverde relieved as Messi brilliance prevents another Levante nightmare|
|WATCH: Leno proposes to girlfriend after Bears clinch division title|
|Messi and Suarez the world´s best strike partnership, says Pique|
|Klopp: I cannot keep every Liverpool player happy|
|Messi and Suarez outscoring Real Madrid and Atletico in LaLiga|
|Levante 0 Barcelona 5: Marvellous Messi banishes ghosts of last season|
|Colts rout Cowboys to keep playoff hopes alive|
|Bears shake off Packers to win NFC North and return to playoffs|
|Mourinho explains Pogba omission and defends Lukaku´s Liverpool showing|
|Liverpool´s display against Manchester United one of the best, claims Klopp|
|Look away Jose! Damning stats expose Manchester United´s limp Liverpool loss|
|Time´s up, Mourinho: Manchester United can dither no longer|
|Manchester United´s players are not dishonest – Mourinho|
|Manchester United´s lack of ambition under Mourinho is scary – Keane|
|Mourinho: All Manchester United can achieve is fourth|
|Quagliarella should be protected by UNESCO, jokes Sampdoria coach|
|Manchester United surpass last season´s goals-against tally in first 17 games|
|Hasenhuttl revels in ´unbelievable´ victory over Arsenal|
|Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1: Shaqiri´s late show bails out Alisson as Reds return to the top|
|Edinburgh in control in Champions Cup, Racing win again|
|Emery ponders January signing after Bellerin injury|
|It is only a knock – Sarri plays down Hazard injury fears|
|Redskins QB Alex Smith released from hospital|
|Starc: If I listen to Warne, I may as well retire|
|Curry interviews retired NASA astronaut, apologises for moon comments|
|Hazard refusing to give up on Premier League title hopes|
|Ziyech & Blind score hat-tricks as Ajax claim 8-0 win|
|Canelo v Fielding: What next for three-weight champion Alvarez?|
|Southampton 3 Arsenal 2: Austin and Ings end Gunners´ long unbeaten run|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Chelsea 2: Sensational Hazard proves the difference|
|Pogba on the bench as Clyne starts for Liverpool|
|Lipsky ends long barren spell in Malelane|
|Lakers´ Stephenson to repeat air guitar despite technical|
|Fletcher pushed Miller on to Broncos sack record|
|The Sarri effect: Hazard surpasses 2017-18 goal involvements in just 16 games|
|Van der Burgh retires on a high note with breaststroke double|
|Rashford: Liverpool was never an option|
|No team Liverpool play this season will be as motivated as Man United – Klopp|
|India surprised by contentious Kohli decision - Bumrah|
|The Sunday Seven - 7 Key Opta facts for NFL Week 15|
|Miller eyeing Joshua bout at Madison Square Garden|
|Finch cleared of serious damage after another finger blow|
|Rashford ´untouchable´ because he plays on his limits – Mourinho|
|It´s important to have his mentality - Mayfield thrilled with Kobe Bryant visit as Browns beat Bronc|
|Centurion Latham indebted to ´world-class´ Williamson|
|Spurs´ Dier out until January after appendix removal|
|A-League Review: Glory down Jets to stay unbeaten|
|Philander ruled out of first Test|
|Controversial Kohli dismissal puts Australia in command|
|Thunder´s Westbrook: ´When we defend like that — best team in the league´|
|Kante at his best further forward, reiterates Sarri|
|Rose capitulates in Indonesia to squander chance to top rankings|
|Fielding: The better man won but I lived a dream|
|Rallying Bulls stun Spurs, LeBron and Ball post triple-doubles|
|Latham century puts New Zealand in commanding position|
|Mayfield leads Browns past Broncos|
|Canelo-GGG trilogy? We can make it happen – Alvarez|
|Canelo outclasses Fielding by third-round TKO|
|Farmer retains title prior to Canelo-Fielding bout|
|Qatar unveils Lusail Stadium for 2022 World Cup|
|Lakers pair LeBron, Ball revel in triple-double feat|
|Allegri hails ´great professional´ Ronaldo|
|LeBron, Ball first Lakers team-mates with triple-doubles in same game since 1982|