Chelsea try to focus on FA Cup but Champions League final looms large

Wembley win will be of no consolation to owner if it's Europa League next season

Can there have been a more downbeat managerial mood on the eve of an FA Cup final than that which Roberto Di Matteo proffered deep within Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening? But then this is a football club that is defined by another trophy; the Champions League.

There has been much talk of elephants in rooms recently, notably when Roy Hodgson was unveiled as England manager on Tuesday, and this is how Chelsea now roll. The spectre of the Champions League has become interchangeable between not winning it and not qualifying for it. It is difficult to quantify which is worse.

Roman Abramovich can surely not envisage walking away from his time in English football without having once touched the trophy that would signal his £1bn dream had become reality, but if Chelsea cannot now not find life from their battered, bruised, and on Wednesday evening's evidence, beaten, pool of players, then next season will offer only the kind of abyss to which he could not possibly have imagined existed.

Abramovich has not spent a vast fortune to idle down to the Bridge on a Thursday night to a half-full ground to face a team he may well not even have heard of, and it is with that sort of magnitude, and not the slightest guarantee of continuous employment, that Di Matteo must somehow pull a performance from the fire of a season of potential failure in Munich on 19 May at Bayern's home ground.

If he cannot do it, then the Premier League inadequacies of recent seasons seem certain to rob Chelsea of the top-four finish that had become de rigueur for the previous nine years. That sort of continued success can breed complacency and perhaps there is a more barbed nature to Arsène Wenger's repetition of the amount of times Arsenal have reached the competition under his leadership (14), and for a fraction of the outlay, with a far more luxurious style.

Bravery, experience and the DNA of a football club (plus a fair amount of woodwork against Barcelona) have carried Chelsea to the Champions League final, and somehow those factors must rise once more to see off a refreshed home side.

Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Juan Mata were called from the bench on Wednesday evening, as the fourth place unexpectedly slipped out of Chelsea's grasp, but within were tired men, tired of playing most probably, nine times in 29 days, enough to stretch any player or manager. To galvanise for an FA Cup final tomorrow is one thing, against a Liverpool side emerging from an even more disappointing league campaign themselves, which will help, but where does it rank in importance to the power men at Chelsea compared to the other final in two weeks' time? That is where the real tears will flow, either with exhausted joy or the bitter realisation that it may never happen, and that it will certainly not for Mourinho's old guard.

As Jon Obi Mikel admitted yesterday: "The European Cup is what everyone wants, what the fans want and what we really want. But we have to make sure we win the Cup final on Saturday. We can't let that pass us by."

If they do not win at the Allianz Arena, then what next? The Champions League run to the final this season has earned them £45m, with a further £2.8m if they go on to lift the trophy. They continue to spend big, to pay off big and to pay big, but the shadow of Uefa's financial fair play is coming at a bad time for a club that is set for a staff overhaul, whether they win the competition or not.

It is to this backdrop which Di Matteo must make some sense; and he knows all too well it is a backdrop that has done for all who have gone before him.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before