There were only three points on offer, that is it, but Chelsea’s defeat to Tottenham on Sunday could have grave consequences for the Blues.
A victory for Chelsea would have put them just two points behind their London rivals who occupy the fourth and final Champions League qualifying position. However the 3-1 home defeat means that they are now eight points behind the race for Europe’s premier competition with only seven games remaining – an almost impossible gap to make up.
The now seemingly inevitable lack of Champions League football next season – the second time in three years – will have a number of knock on affects for the Blues, which could damage the club for years to come.
Firstly, there will be the lack of funding that Champions League football brings. For reaching the Champions League quarter finals this season, Chelsea have earned over €24 million in prize money alone, plus what they would earn from TV rights and match day revenue. With Arsenal a further five points behind the Blues and having decided to focus on the Europa League, it is highly likely that Chelsea will find themselves competing in the Europa League themselves next season.
This brings two problems. Firstly, the funding is considerably less. Even if the Blues were to go on to win it, the maximum they would receive from UEFA is €15.7m.
While Chelsea have no problem taking a hit financially for just one season, Europa League football also brings the added problem of fixture congestion. With the Europa League fixtures taking place on a Thursday nights, and often in the far flung corners of Europe, forcing subsequent Premier League games to be played on Sundays and Mondays, meaning teams are always playing catch-up. There are also two more fixtures to contend with compared to the Champions League.
Not only are there financial and fixture problems, but the Blues could face player problems too.
There have been plenty of rumours regarding the future of a number of Chelsea players in recent months. Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have both been linked with Real Madrid, N’Golo Kante has been linked to PSG, Alvaro Morata to Bayern Munich, while Manchester United are thought to be interested in signing Willian.
While all of Chelsea’s key players stuck around last time they missed out on Champions League football, it is doubtful that all of these players are likely to stay once again.
The most likely and probably most devastating departures could be of Hazard and Courtois. Courtois has just one year left on his current deal at Stamford Bridge and is one of Real Madrid’s prime targets to become their long term goalkeeper. David de Gea, Alisson Becker and Gianluigi Donnarumma are the other candidates for the job, but with Chelsea’s current situation, and Courtois’ family living in Madrid, the Belgian could now be the number one choice.
Hazard has also been linked with a move to the current European champions, and despite having insisted he is happy at the club, at 27-years-old, he may not want to miss out on yet another season of Champions League football.
Should these players leave, the lack of Champions League football at Stamford Bridge could also prevent the Blues from signing world class replacements.
All in all, it was a bad day at the office for Chelsea against Tottenham, but their failure to close the gap to the top four could have strong and long lasting effects.