Five positives Chelsea can take from Europa League participation
The Europa League lacks the prestige of the Champions League but there are positives for Chelsea and their participation.
The current Champions league holders have endured a torrid campaign on and off the field thus far this season.
They have seen popular manager Roberto Di Matteo, who led them to European glory last season, dismissed and replaced by the very unpopular Rafa Benitez.
A season that held so much promise off the back of a landmark triumph and with several high profile purchases such as Eden Hazard, Oscar and Victor Moses supposedly heralding the dawn of an exciting new era, has quickly become one to forget.
A campaign that offered potentially seven trophies at the beginning has become something of a nightmare in more ways than one.
Chelsea lie third in the Premier League, a massive 16 points behind leaders Manchester United, effectively falling out of the title race for another year, and were humiliated by Swansea in the League Cup.
To make matters worse the Blues became the first defending champions to be knocked out in the group stage of the Champions League and thus have been relegated to the Europa League.
While playing in the Europa League is an uncomfortable reality for Blues supporters who are still riding high from the miraculous triumph in Munich last May, it is still the reality.
It may be looked down upon as a competition and viewed as a worthless tournament for a team of the stature of Chelsea, but it does bring about some positives that could drive them to further success in the future.
Here are five of those positives:
The cauldron that is the UEFA Champions League is such an enormous and intense competition that is filled with ebbs and flows and its fair share of emotions.
Chelsea would have experienced that to the fullest during last season’s triumph and, although in an ideal world they would no doubt want to still be in the tournament, it will be nice to sit out the knockout stages and avoid all the baggage that comes with participation in the Champions League, being able to just enjoy it as a spectacle and recuperate for an assault on it next season.
For ageing veterans like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, who have finally won it, it may refuel their hunger after taking a bit of a break.
Some of the European greats such as Liverpool, Internazionale, Juventus and Bayern Munich have played in the Europa League/ UEFA Cup in the last few years and it has certainly revitalised the latter two.
Last season Chelsea finished 6th in the Premier League, an all time low in the Abramovich era.
That was largely put down to prioritising the Champions League and FA Cup in search of silverware, with league form deteriorating as a consequence.
Even the most ardent Blues fans would admit last seasons Champions League win had more than its fair share of luck involved and they would be hard pressed to say that they could do it again.
Even if Chelsea did make it through to the knockout stages they would be delaying the inevitable exit as the team is rebuilding and history is against them defending their title.
A top four finish is by no means a certainty and, with the Europa League allowing for squad rotation to keep the team fresh, the team won't have to exert all their efforts into the competition like they would in the Champions League.
This allows Chelsea to prioritise their main targets for the season such as a top four finish and the FA Cup, while enjoying the Europa League as a secondary competition.
3) Reality Check
The realisation that Chelsea were no longer apart of Europe's premier club competition will have really hit home when they had nothing to do on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Having become so accustomed to engaging in draining and dramatic European ties in midweek over the past decade, it will come as a shock that they are no longer involved.
The whole club will be disappointed and, quite frankly, embarrassed that they have been forced to scrap it out in an alien competition they have never participated in.
For the sake of its image and prestige as a club, Chelsea will be determined to not have to play in the Europa league again.
Every second Chelsea play in the Europa League will motivate them to escape from their ignominy and drive them to get back to the Champions League and avoid a fate like Liverpool's.
Over many years now, Chelsea have won every major trophy available to them from the drought breaking Premier League title to the coveted Champions League.
Whilst the Europa League is still fighting to gain credibility as a reputable competition, at least amongst the upper echelons of European football, it will be nice for Chelsea to win a tournament they have never won.
It represents one of two trophies that could be won this season for Chelsea along with the FA Cup and being one of the favourites by virtue of their title of European Champions and their quality relative to the competition, the Europa League is a trophy that can be realistically won this season.
Ending a season with a trophy will restore some much needed pride back to the club and boost morale in what has been a difficult campaign.
5) Super Cup Redemption
Chelsea's 4-1 mauling at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup was a terrible way to kick off the new season. Winning the Europa League would afford Chelsea a chance to redeem themselves in this competition next season.
Whilst it is not a coveted trophy, Chelsea will be eager to atone for the woeful display in Monaco and pick up an early confidence-boosting trophy to set the tone for the new season.
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