Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata says that he and his team-mates must secure Champions League football for next season.
The Blues have endured a topsy-turvy season that has seen moments of brilliance, including the 8-0 thrashing of Aston Villa, to season low points such as the humiliating 1-0 defeat to relegation-threatened QPR in front of their own fans at Stamford Bridge.
All of this has coincided with a managerial change that some Blues fans have not taken to at all. The appointment of ex-Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has been a turbulent one, as expected, and some members of the Chelsea crowd have not accepted the appointment at all.
In an interview with the Guardian, Mata revealed that Champions League qualification for next season has to be the club's main priority. Chelsea are currently competing in the Europa League, the 'second tier' of European football in Europe, but it would seem that for mega-rich owner Roman Abramovich this is not a high enough standard.
Mata said: "If we can finish in the top four, after ending sixth last year, that would mean we have more consistency and is a step forward. We've learned from what happened last year and won't make the same mistakes again. We know we have to be playing in next season's Champions League."
Despite the importance of the Champions League, both financially and commercially, Mata has not dismissed the importance of this season's Europa League campaign. The Blues are currently in the quarter-finals, and have a second leg tie against Russian outfit Rubin Kazan to play with a 3-1 lead from the first leg.
Mata added: "But if we can win, say, the Europa League, it would have been another great season for the club. They have never won that trophy before. Neither have I and there are so many things I still want to win."
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