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."
|Butragueno backs under-fire Lopetegui|
|Liverpool´s defensive improvement has hurt attack – Klopp|
|Butler booed by Timberwolves fans during introductions|
|Pochettino: Dier´s Ramos tackle highlighted Spurs´ attitude|
|Man City working on new deal for Sane – Guardiola|
|Golden Knights sign RW Tuch to seven-year extension|
|Bryant explains how Lakers could beat Warriors|
|Finals hopefuls Isner, Fognini into Stockholm semis|
|Browns trade running back Hyde to Jaguars|
|Mourinho: I´d love to have Hazard at Manchester United|
|Hamilton´s title chances enhanced by Vettel´s grid penalty|
|Deja vu for Enisei as La Rochelle inflict another thrashing|
|Five-star Jovic makes Bundesliga history|
|Liverpool´s scoring slump no concern for cautious Klopp|
|He´s the Special One - Sarri insists he is not on Mourinho´s level yet|
|Second-half blitz guides Leicester to European success|
|Sheffield Wednesday 1 Middlesbrough 2: Besic, Assombalonga see off Owls|
|Goerges rallies to reach Luxembourg Open final, Jabeur makes history|
|Howe: Transfer speculation will not disrupt Ake|
|´Do we really want opera every night?´ - Klopp not changing Nations League view|
|Vile and abhorrent – Chelsea´s Carney responds to online abuse|
|Giants WR Beckham Jr. explains why he might cramp up: ´I really don´t like water´|
|Man City pay training-pitch tribute to Joe Hart|
|Neymar to be rested as Tuchel rubbishes Ballon d´Or concerns|
|Sarri ´not interested´ in Christensen father´s quit threat|
|Cardinals fire offensive coordinator McCoy after 1-6 start|
|Neymar return unlikely, but anything can happen – Valverde|
|Bairstow a doubt for fourth ODI|
|Manchester United fined for late arrival and delayed kick-off against Valencia|
|Australia-Pakistan chat not ´especially polite´ - Sarfraz|
|Pogba relishing ´pressure game´ against in-form Hazard|
|Don´t bet on Cardiff survival, warns Warnock|
|Buffon enjoying Tuchel´s methods at PSG|
|RIP to Wimbledon epics! Isner feels like The Undertaker following final-set tie-break rule|
|Sevilla performance sealed Bernat´s Bayern exit - Hoeness|
|Keita set to miss out as Liverpool monitor injured stars|
|He didn´t want to be here – Guardiola doubts Sancho will return to Manchester City|
|Sarri: Manchester United are the best in the Premier League|
|Mourinho salutes ´brave´ Shaw for ´best possible´ response to criticism|
|No Ballon d´Or distractions for Griezmann, insists Simeone|
|Wigan stand by Hardaker as full-back prepares to undergo rehabilitation|
|Barcelona deny Neymar talk|
|Hazard can win the Ballon d´Or as a Chelsea player, insists Sarri|
|De Bruyne in contention to start in Manchester City´s clash with Burnley|
|Neymar needs to mature to reach Messi levels - Xavi|
|We have a hell of a lot to do - Paine slams Australia batting|
|Kerber and Osaka to meet at WTA Finals|
|Lorenzo out of Japanese MotoGP|
|Real Madrid handed Africa trip in Copa del Rey|
|Allegri: Ronaldo has sharpened Juventus focus|
|No Wade in Wasps squad amid NFL reports|
|Rooney: Five of us controlled Man United dressing room|
|Bayern bosses launch scathing attack on ´disrespectful´ media|
|Saints lock in Lawes to new deal|
|Adelaide United 1 Sydney 1: Debutant Le Fondre rescues a point|
|Madrid can´t look back, only forward - Lopetegui confident of revival|
|Wimbledon to introduce final-set tie-breaks|
|Abbas inspires Pakistan to series victory|
|Madrid boss Lopetegui hopeful on Bale availability|
|Mood is positive at Bayern, insists under-pressure Kovac|
|LeBron offers food for thought after losing Lakers debut|
|Bolt future not an immediate concern for Mariners|
|Hazard: I could finish my career at Chelsea|
|Buffon hoping to avoid Champions League final against Juventus|
|Wilshere not ready for West Ham return|
|Chelsea v Manchester United: Hazard better under Sarri than he ever was with Mourinho|
|The big Friday Premier League quiz|
|Khawaja suffers meniscal tear, doubt for India series|
|Babbel: Klopp must win trophies now at Liverpool|
|LeBron makes spectacular start on Lakers debut, but LA fall to Trail Blazers|