Roberto Di Matteo has all but conceded Chelsea must beat Bayern Munich later this month to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Chelsea were once again unable to beat a team above them in the Premier League, losing 2-0 to Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, a defeat which leaves them four points behind Tottenham, who beat Bolton 4-1 and last night's opponents, with just two games remaining.
If Di Matteo can lead his side to glory in Munich later this month, then they will knock out the fourth-placed team in the Premier League from next year's competition. That is now their most realistic hope of reaching a 10th successive Champions League.
When Di Matteo was asked if he would have to win the competition to qualify, he said: "It's going to be difficult now for us to reach fourth spot. The season has proven difficult. We'll keep pushing though until it's impossible. We won't give up.
"We've lost many points during this season and, ultimately, looking back over the whole season, that's why we're in the position we are. My players have given everything. The effort is there. We've been asking them to push and push and push and they've done well. We'll regroup and pick them up. We've got a big game, a great final, on Saturday and we'll go again. We'll look forward to the FA Cup final.
"In the first half we didn't raise our tempo to where we needed to be to be able to dominate the game. The second half was better and we pushed them back into their half, creating a few chances that were cleared off the line, but Newcastle did well tonight, defended well, had two shots and scored two goals.
"We've been pushing the players for the last two months and they've responded extremely well. Tonight we have to give credit to Newcastle. They did well and played a very good game against us. They have a player in their team at the moment that, whatever he touches, it goes in."
Newcastle's two goals came from Papiss Cissé, who has now scored 13 times in the 12 games he has played since moving from Freiburg in January. The win keeps Alan Pardew and his side in sight of a possible Champions League qualification spot themselves, ahead of a titanic clash with Manchester City at St James' Park on Sunday.
"It's all to play for," said Pardew. "We've got ourselves in a great position. You don't get in this position unless you have great players and some of our players tonight were phenomenal. We've got two games to go and the aim is to try and win them both and see where that leaves us. It's going to be a special day for us."