Chelsea’s hopes of winning a second Champions League title will have to wait for another season after the club suffered an exit at the last 16 stage of the competition. Paris St Germain managed to beat in the Premier League outfit on away goals after a 3-3 draw on aggregate. The defeat leaves Chelsea with only the league to concentrate upon for the remainder of the season. A six-point advantage along with a game in hand means that the blues are well-placed to lift their first league title in five years. The blues are backed at 1/14 for the title in the latest English Premier League odds from Betfair.
After having had a brilliant summer transfer window by signing the likes of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea were seen as strong favourites for the Champions League this season. Only the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were ranked as having a better shot at the title. This status was not altered heavily even when PSG were revealed as their opponents for yet another Champions League knockout stage. The immense experience in the Champions League for both the players and manager Jose Mourinho was probably a factor.
However, it was an undeniable fact that Chelsea were struggling in the second half of the campaign. A feature of the first half of the campaign was the smooth and flowing game, but it is nowhere to be seen in the last couple of months. One can probably say that the blues have never really recovered from the shock 5-3 defeat against Tottenham on New Year’s Day.
It was not a surprise as Chelsea were knocked out by PSG on away goals. The blues hadn’t played their best over the two legs and the club needed to move on quickly from this disappointment. It is clear that the best team won and this greatly allows the Chelsea players to move on to other objectives in the campaign. After having recently secured the League Cup title by beating Tottenham, the blues may feel a reduced amount of pressure after a season without silverware last time around.
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was one of the scorers against PSG. One the club’s most consistent players over the last three years, the Belgian international has taken his season’s tally to 16 goals after a wonderful long-range effort against Hull City last weekend. Fabregas and Costa may have dominated the headlines at times this season, but Hazard has been the true force with his amazing consistency. The wizard is yet to win the Champions League with Chelsea after having joined the club just after their success in the competition. Yet, he has been able to hide the disappointment of missing out on this ultimate prize once again.
Hazard says that the exit from the European competition may actually help the blues in concentrating on the league title. It is a well-known fact that owner Roman Abramovich craves success in Europe, but it should not take anything away from the bread-and-butter of winning the league. For all Chelsea’s dominance in terms of winning trophies over the last decade, they have managed only three Premier League titles. Two of them came under Jose Mourinho in his first spell, while Carlo Ancelotti won the other.
Amazingly, Chelsea have not been title winners since the 2009-10 season, as the success has been shared between the two Manchester clubs – United and City – during this period. The cup is on the verge of a return to London and having one game per week will certainly help Chelsea in this regard.
Much has been spoken about how the lack of a winter break affects the players in the English league. Hazard accepted this fact and says that the blues would have found it extremely hard to cope with the demands of playing in Europe and fighting for the league title at the same time. Jose Mourinho’s reluctance to rotate may be questioned at times, but the Portuguese does not have a large squad at his disposal.
Currently on the international break, Hazard will be hoping to inspire his team once again when they take on Stoke City at Stamford Bridge on April 4. The blues are the only undefeated team at home this season, but three of their last four matches at the Bridge have ended as a 1-1 draw. Chelsea simply cannot afford to drop more points at home, as they still have matches against bigger and better opposition like United and Arsenal. Betfair expects another home draw at odds of 9/2, but Chelsea are also backed to get three points against Stoke at odds of 1/4.
The Champions League exit may seem as a boon right now, but only time will tell if Chelsea can utilise it.