Chelsea's disastrous season was compounded last night as they exited the Champions League at the hands of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paris Saint-Germain. Adding salt to the wounds, last season's Player of the Year Eden Hazard was booed by the home fans for swapping shirts with opponent Angel di Maria at half-time.
With the club still ten points adrift of the final Champions League qualifying place in the Premier League, the FA Cup now represents the West Londoner's sole hope of silverware this season. Chelsea face Everton in a tricky quarter-final tie at Goodison Park on Saturday, with supporters demanding a reaction in the wake of the 4-2 aggregate defeat to the French champions.
Italian national team head coach Antonio Conte is expected to meet with Chelsea officials this week to discuss a move the west London. Blues owner Roman Abramovich, privately believed to still be furious with the lack of effort shown by some senior players under Jose Mourinho, will give the green light for Conte to make drastic changes within the playing staff this summer.
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Conte's managerial style is reminiscent of the way he played the game. Something of a firebrand, he demands respect and his combative persona is not to be taken lightly. While giving a team talk as manager of Juventus, club legend Gigi Buffon interrupted him to discuss player bonuses. Bad move. Conte fired off an expletive-ridden verbal assault in the direction of the goalkeeper which put him very much back in his place.
Perhaps the most exciting prospect for Chelsea fans is their rumoured manager's relationship with one of the most coveted midfielders in world football - Paul Pogba. Conte was the man who lured Pogba away from Manchester United on a free transfer back in 2012. If anyone can influence where the prodigious young French talent ends up after leaving Juventus, Conte could certainly be that man.
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Likely transfer targets
Still without a goal in this year's Premier League, Hazard's time at the champions is up and the Belgian winger is thought to favour a move to PSG with Leicester City star Riyad Mahrez being lined up as a like-for-like replacement after being linked with a move in January. Although surprise Premier League leaders Leicester will be desperate to keep their star man.
Club captain John Terry has not been offered a new contract by the club he's served for nearly 18 years and is expected to join Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard across the pond in the USA's Major League Soccer. Although Kurt Zouma has proved an adequate deputy for much of the season, Chelsea will likely redouble their efforts to bring in England centre-back John Stones from Everton.
Gonzalo Higuain is currently the form striker in Italy, having bagged an impressive 26 goals in 28 Serie A games and is expected to be near the top of Conte's shopping list. However, Chelsea's likely lack of Champions League football will dent their hopes of attracting talent such as Higuain - although realistically the situation will be rectified after just a solitary year in the wilderness.
Other players thought to be facing an enforced Stamford Bridge exit include frontman Loic Remy - who's Chelsea career has consisted of two years primarily sitting on the bench, and Brazilian Oscar who was also left out of the side for the crunch clash with PSG, although his contract runs until 2019.
So despite what has proved to be one of most calamitous defences of the Premier League in the competition's history, perhaps Chelsea's future is not as bleak as it looked earlier this season. As the saying goes - the night is darkest just before dawn.
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