Interestingly dilemma for Chelsea fans this evening as they head to Stamford Bridge to see Jose Mourinho’s side take on Porto in the Champions League. Chelsea need a point to advance to the knockout stages, but would they be better off losing and going into the Europa League instead?
The rationale behind that is this. Chelsea are currently 14th in the Premier League. Over the last 10 years of the Premier League, the highest finish of any team residing in 14th place on December 8 has been 10th. The numbers are grim: three teams rose to 10th, one came 12th, the rest dropped lower, two were relegated. Chelsea aren’t about to go down, but getting into the top four is a bridge to far for Chelsea. Even Jose Mourinho has been talking about a top six finish recently. Which means Europa League next season and not Champions League.
Even the most fanatical Chelsea fan will admit that they are not winning the Champions League this season. But the Europa League is another matter. There Chelsea would then face nine games against lesser opposition, Villarreal not Barcelona, Schalke 04 not Bayern Munich, Saint Etienne not Paris Saint- Germain, from winning the competition and automatically qualifying for the Champions League next season. That is a lot easier process than trying to clamber up 10 places domestically in 23 matches.
There is absolutely no chance of Chelsea letting this one slip deliberately, of course. It is ironic, though, that if they did, their chances of reaching next season’s competition would actually improve.