Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta insists they cannot afford to pin their Champions League qualification hopes on winning the Europa League despite falling off the pace in the race for the top four domestically.
A fourth away defeat in five matches in Sunday’s 2-0 loss at Everton leaves Maurizio Sarri’s side three points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal in the Premier League.
However, had they not dropped five points in their last two games against the Toffees and Wolves, Chelsea would currently be third.
Having got the easier side of the draw in Europe, facing Sparta Prague in the quarter-finals with the winners of Benfica and Entracht Frankfurt awaiting in the semis, it would seem that competition represents the Blues’ best chance of gaining entry to the Champions League.
However, Azpilicueta said they had not given up on a top-four finish.
“We missed a chance to get points and every time you don’t get the three points you put yourself in a more difficult position,” he said.