Chelsea, the reigning Premier League champions, have been a shadow of their earlier self this year under Antonio Conte, the charismatic Italian who guided them to title glory in his managerial debut in English football.
But the former Azzurri and Juventus boss has failed to deliver the same this term following some failed transfer deals and training ground rifts. Although the Blues are still in contention of the FA Cup glory, they will face an uphill task to register a ‘top four’ finish with only 8 league games remaining.
Chelsea are now placed 5th in the league standings, 5 points short of 4th placed Spurs who will be visiting Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon. Securing a place in next season’s Champions League is now more important for the Blues over winning the domestic cup competition and the club is sweating over the future of Belgian duo Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois who are stalling on new contracts amid interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid. Hazard has two years left to his current deal whereas Courtois will enter final 12 months of his contract this summer. Both of them are reportedly open to a summer move and it will be a difficult job for the management to keep hold of the duo without Champions League football.
Hazard has recently been exploited in a makeshift ‘number 9’ role and custodian Courtois was heavily criticized for his erroneous display against Barcelona at Nou Camp. Chelsea will be hosting Spurs and Liverpool in their remaining 8 fixtures whereas the away outings against Burnley and Southampton will not be a stroll in the park for Conte’s men. Any slip up will further jeopardize their ‘top four’ hopes which, in turn, will make the duo’s Chelsea future extremely uncertain. Real Madrid are likely to go for a squad revamp in summer following a dismal domestic campaign and set to reignite their long-term interest in The Belgian duo.
The Blues too might be forced to let their prized assets leave in order to receive a hefty transfer fee rather than allowing them to complete Bosman moves upon expiration of current deals. Nevertheless, the management must keep pursuing both Hazard and Courtois to commit their future at Stamford Bridge but should qualify for the prestigious Champions League first to strengthen their hold.