Chelsea suffered a shocking 4-1 defeat at the hands of Watford on Monday night. Having lost their previous game 3-0 to Bournemouth, this is the first Blues side since 1995 to lose back-to-back Premier League games by a three-goal margin.
Manager Antonio Conte is believed to be walking on eggshells in the capital as Luis Enrique and Carlo Ancelotti are reportedly lined up as potential replacements.
Despite all this and the huge task they face against Barcelona, here are four reasons why the English champions could be the European champions come May.
4. Antonio Conte’s desire for European success
Conte has had a phenomenal career to date. At Juventus he won three consecutive Serie A titles while also going on a domestic unbeaten run of 49 matches, he led Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, where they unfortunately became the first Italian side to lose to Germany when they were outdone after penalties, and won the Premier League title in his first season at Chelsea.
Despite winning four domestic leagues in his last four attempts, Conte has no European silverware in the trophy cabinet. Even though he’s seen as one of the finest managers in world football, Jurgen Klopp, Massimiliano Allegri and Diego Simeone have all reached Champions League finals while both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have won two each.
With the league title race all but over, what better year for the Italian to really push for Europe’s biggest accolade?
3. The magic of Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard has established himself as one of the world’s best players. His ability to beat teams on his own was perfectly illustrated by his magnificent solo goal against Arsenal in last year’s 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge and on Monday night, when Chelsea looked down and out, he almost did it again by scoring a sublime goal from outside the box only for Watford to respond with three quick-fire strikes of their own.
Chelsea fans would hope he can do something similar on February 20 when they go up against their biggest European rivals, Barcelona. At the start of the season, the winger expressed his desire to win the Ballon d’Or by replicating the club achievements of Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
With all hope of retaining the league gone, Hazard will be even more motivated to win a European title.
2. The leadership qualities of past winners
Having won the Champions League in 2012, Gary Cahill and David Luiz played as the centre-back partnership during the club’s greatest ever victory. Cahill is now the captain and is a clear favourite of Conte’s.
The same cannot be said for David Luiz, who was reported to have had a run in with Conte. Nevertheless, with lots of football still to be played, one would imagine Conte will use the Brazilian at some point and may rekindle a successful defensive partnership.
Perhaps a classic Luiz free-kick could be the solution to some tough Champions League encounters.
1. Squad depth
Despite Conte’s open criticism of the Chelsea board’s transfer policy, the club do have a depth. One must also remember the talent displayed by youngsters such as Callum Hudson-Odoi. His dazzling performances for the club at numerous levels as well as aiding the English under-17 team to World Cup glory have shown he is undoubtedly a potentially world-class player.
Perhaps Olivier Giroud’s aerial ability will be the plan B needed to catch poor defences out.
Chelsea have defied the odds once before when they dramatically dispatched of Bayern Munich in the 2012 final.
With Conte’s future in doubt, what could be a more fitting way for him to prove his doubters wrong, that is if he’s given the time to do so.