Ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Greece on Thursday for their Europa League clash with PAOK, it might be worth the time to have a look at how the Blues might see the competition as a chance to reclaim their spot as one of Europe’s best clubs.
Having already won the Champions League and the Europa League in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013, a five-year run of poor results against Europe’s most competitive clubs has left the club’s fans frustrated, given their success in domestic football over that period.
The Blues failed to impress in last season’s Champions League, bowing out in the Round of 16 to Barcelona, but their problems were visible in the group stages already. Chelsea claimed second spot in a group that featured Roma, Atletico Madrid and Qarabag, with the Italian side finishing in first position.
Roma, however, singled out the shortcomings of former manager Antonio Conte’s tactics in the competition. Chelsea blew a 2-0 lead to draw 3-3 against Roma in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, before the Italians gave them a 3-0 thumping in the Italian capital in the return leg.
Chelsea threw away another lead against Barcelona in the first leg of their Round of 16 clash, settling for a 1-1 draw, before receiving another 3-0 hiding in the second leg at the Nou Camp. Chelsea would eventually finish outside of the Premier League’s top four with only a FA Cup triumph to salvage some pride for a rather forgettable season.
Now, under new manager Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea have a good opportunity to restore their European reputation. Winning the Europa League would not only put them back into the Champions League next season, which they can also do by finishing in the top four of the Premier League, but give them back their right or status as a club that actually knows how to win European competitions. Three European trophies in six years paints a significant picture if the involvement of English clubs in European football is analysed, at least for the past five to ten years.
Apart from PAOK, Chelsea also face Videoton and BATE in the group stage, while a clash with London rivals Arsenal could very well be on the cards later in the tournament, should both sides progress to the quarter-finals.