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Hernandez: Five matches to watch

Liga MX 30 minutes ago
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Mar 26, 2012

Cech issues Blues warning

Petr Cech has warned Chelsea face a "year lost in the progression of the club" if they fail to qualify for next season's Champions League.

• Cahill: We must believe
• Sturridge prefers central role

The Blues have played in the Champions League for nine seasons in succession, but they face an uphill battle to qualify this time around.

Having suffered a defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday followed by a home draw with Tottenham on Saturday, the west Londoners are five points away from a top-four spot with eight games left to play.

"It is a year lost in the progression of the club," Cech said. "For a big club, you can accept that the team does not win the league because it is in transition, but you can't afford to slip out of the Champions League spots, because the big teams are about the Champions League."

Liverpool's failure to qualify for the Champions League in the 2009-10 season has had serious implications for the club, and despite heavy investment last summer they currently lie seventh in the table.

Cech, though, is confident that Chelsea would not suffer the same fate, with owner Roman Abramovich providing stability where Liverpool endured off-field chaos.

"Liverpool had so many problems within the club, not really on the pitch, so that is why they kind of lost some time, but this club has the structure," Cech said.

"I believe that one season will make a difference, because it will slow down all the process of being a Champions League club and hunting for trophies, but it will not be the end of Chelsea, because I believe that we will come back."

Chelsea at least have the option of qualifying for next season's Champions League by winning this season's, but Cech has stressed that they cannot allow their European campaign to become a distraction.

"The aim is never just to forget about the position in the league, and win the Champion League," Cech said. "It would be great to do that, but the league and finishing in the top four is important for the club as well. We want to make sure that we will be there next season, somehow."

To do that, Chelsea will have to find a way to close the five-point gap to Tottenham in their final eight league games, which include trips to Arsenal and Liverpool.

All that while juggling a nightmare schedule containing a Champions League quarter-final against Benfica, a possible semi-final against Barcelona or AC Milan, and an FA Cup semi-final.

Cech said: "If we manage to get through to the semi-final of the Champions League, we will have a crazy calendar with a lot of games. It's good in a way because it means that you are in the hunt for trophies.

"In terms of the Premier League, we have put ourselves in a difficult position, but there are 24 points still left, and that is a lot of points to play for. In that period, you could overcome a five-point deficit, but you need to make sure that you win all your games or the majority of them and the other teams slip."

He added: "The good thing is that we don't have many injuries. We have been rotating the squad, which is something which will help us in the end.

"There are so many games coming in two, three days all the time that we need to make sure that we recover well. That is the most important task."

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