Guus Hiddink admitted Chelsea must face a period of transition after crashing out of the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge.
With PSG claiming a 4-2 round of 16 aggregate victory and Chelsea struggling to threaten a top four finish this season, the 2012 European champions face a campaign out of the Champions League next season.
And interim-manager Hiddink, who is set to make way for Italy coach Antonio Conte in the summer, admits that Chelsea have to accept the challenge of fighting back to the top.
“Everyone knows Chelsea is in a transition period and they have to see how they go on and regain the lost terrain, where they used to be,” Hiddink said.
“It’s difficult to get fourth position and we knew that beforehand. But getting out of relegation was the first job and it was a very big gap to get in the Champions League
“Chelsea must consider its short future, but they already knew that.
"It is a difficult season. We were almost panicking about relegation when I came in (in December), but it is difficult to get into fourth place.”
Defeat against PSG also came at a cost, with both Diego Costa and Eden Hazard limping off with hip injuries.
The two players are now doubts for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Everton at Goodison Park.
“We will see if there is big damage,” Hiddink said. “Diego was desperate to play, not 100 per cent fit, but I don’t know if it has become worse.
“But in two days we have to play another game.”
Hazard, who produced another unimpressive performance, was booed by a minority of fans as he was substituted.
The Belgian also angered fans by swapping shirts with Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel di Maria at half-time, but while Hiddink refused to criticise the supporters for booing Hazard, he insisted he had no issue with the shirt swap.
“They have the right to do what they think,” Hiddink said. “They have the right to express their feelings, but he had a problem with his hip.
“As for the, it should not be done. In some countries they do it, maybe in Latin countries, but it’s not a big issue for me.
“In other countries and other clubs, it is done. I don't think it's a big issue. I don't think it was done with any bad intentions.”
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