Eden Hazard is confident Chelsea will be challenging for the UEFA Champions League trophy next season.
The Blues won the tournament for the first time in their history last term, when Roberto Di Matteo led them to a penalty shootout win against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. This time round, though, it was a completely different story, with the Italian coach being sacked after five matches of a group they were ultimately unable to progress from.
Rafael Benitez, the interim coach, has now set his sights on three targets: the UEFA Europa League, the FA Cup, and a top-four finish in the Premier League. The latter is of utmost importance if they are to compete in the Champions League again next season, and they are currently in third position with a five-point lead over fifth-placed Arsenal with nine games left to play.
If Chelsea are to achieve their remaining targets they will need all their key men to be on top form, and this certainly includes Hazard. The Belgian international has made a big impact in England following his £35million move from Lille in the summer, having already featured 50 times in what has been an extremely hectic campaign for the Stamford Bridge club.
The 22-year-old had a choice of clubs to choose from during the summer window, and he admits he was disappointed to exit the Champions League at such an early stage having opted to join the holders. However, the playmaker is confident he and his team-mates will be back amongst the cream of Europe next season, when he intends to go a lot further in the tournament.
“It was a big disappointment going out of the Champions League so early, particularly as the same thing happened to me with Lille last season, when we were eliminated at the group stage,” Hazard told the official club website. “It’s such an important competition and that’s why I feel we could have achieved a bit more this season.
“We’re on the right path to qualify for next season’s tournament, though, and I think if we do we have enough quality players at the club to go a long way in it. The ultimate objective is to go as far as you can in the Champions League.”
Chelsea, who are a point ahead of fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur and also have a game in hand, resume their Premier League campaign after the international break with a trip to Southampton on 30 March. Then follows a hectic schedule of at least seven, and depending on their progress in the FA Cup and Europa League potentially nine, matches in April.