Petr Cech claimed Chelsea were better off crashing out of the Champions League in the group stage than in the quarter-finals after they became the first holders to fail to reach the knockout phase.
The Blues thrashed Nordsjaelland 6-1 at Stamford Bridge last night to end their Group E campaign with a win, but Juventus' victory at Shakhtar Donetsk made the result irrelevant to their bid to stay alive in the competition.
Despite the unprecedented nature of Chelsea's humiliation, goalkeeper Cech insisted the consolation of Europa League football meant there was more value to an exit before Christmas than one in February or March.
"If you go out in the last 16 or quarter-finals, or in the group stage, for me there is no difference," he said.
"Because you are out of the cup, you can't retain it, and last 16 or quarter-finals is not something people will remember.
"We will play the Europa League, so we are still in European competition and we can finish the year with a major trophy.
"So, let's focus on the league and then when the Europa League starts, we could play that already as Club World Cup champions."
Indeed, Chelsea could become both the first current European and world champions to grace the Europa League if they win the latter tournament in Japan this month.
However, that would be little more than a consolation prize in lieu of a more robust defence of the Champions League.
"Sometimes, you have 10 points and go through," Cech added.
"But, in this group, where three teams were very equal, then sometimes it's not enough.
"Man City suffered the same elimination last season."
The club's stand-in captain had no doubt where Chelsea had gone wrong in their campaign.
"Recently, we've been defending much better," he said.
"But, throughout the competition, if you concede two goals everywhere then it's very unlikely you're going to win games.
"Throughout the group stage, we played well when we had the ball.
"We were suffering a little bit without the ball, conceding too many shots."
Chelsea shipped at least two goals in all their games against Juve and Shakhtar, most crucially in the first, according to Cech.
"The biggest blow now when we look back was the draw against Juve," he said.
"Because we were 2-0 up and we drew the game in the end, so this is where the difference now lies."
- More about:
- Chelsea F.c.
- Manchester City
- Premier League
- Stamford Bridge
- UEFA Champions League