Chelsea's Champions League checklist
Photo: Getty Images - Serena Taylor

Chelsea's Champions League checklist

Chelsea secured top four last weekend.

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Victory at Watford secured Chelsea's spot in next years Champions League, and with a Europa League final potentially on the horizon, all things consider, Maurizio Sarri's first term in charge hasn't entirely flopped.

Plus, a trip to Wembley for the League Cup finale, the Blues' Italian boss has provided many moments of positivity during his brief spell in England.

Albeit, these have been accompanied by head scratching results, questionable tactics and player tantrums that have tarnished Sarri's reign in the dugout.

After finally locking down their expected place in the top four, a return to Europe's grandest stage waits for the London club and whoever they have in charge. Here is a Champions League checklist for Chelsea, in preparation for football's most herald cup competition. 

Source a striker

There is much easier said than done in today's saturated transfer market, made even harder by the potential ban that continues to loom over Chelsea.

Any side aiming to scalp the Champions League requires a recognised striker or at least a forward with an eye for goal. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the extreme examples, yet Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid have wielded the scoring exploits of Robert Lewandowski and Antoine Griezmann respectively in the past campaigns.

Chelsea have had their fair share of elite stars leading the line, although these have begun to dry up since Diego Costa departed for Spain.

Currently, there are just two recognised strikers in the Blues roster: Olivier Giroud and Gonzalo Higuain. Both are 30+ years of age; both have had a hit & miss story in front of goal. Whilst Giroud's excellence in the Europa League earns him the tournaments current top marksmen (10), the Frenchman has started just seven games in the league, scoring twice, with question marks over his future at Stamford Bridge.

Higuain on the other hand has five in his in 15 appearances since joining from AC Milan in January. The former Real Madrid and Juventus star shows a sparkling scoring record across his career (242 goals in 430 games) but hasn't quite adapted to the pace of the English division. That being said, Sarri told BBC Sport that, '"If he's (Higuain) staying then we can do very well in the next season", responding to whether Chelsea can sign the Argentine permanently.

Both clearly have an eye goal, the question is: can they compete against the Europe's elite when they haven't quite matched those in the Premier League? Therefore, a proven forward may be the answer, if not at least to provide back-up if Higuain or Giroud are to stick around over the summer. 

Head over heels for Hazard

It goes without saying that Chelsea wouldn't even be close to the position they're in without the exploits of their mercurial No.10.

Eden Hazard is far and away the team’s leading goal scorer (19 all comps) and he has more assists than any player in Europe's top five leagues (15); the Belgian has contributed to 36% of Chelsea's goals this year.

These statistics are mouth-watering, yet the only one that matters is whether he will be registering another season with the Blues, which looks no clearer than it did six months ago.

In October, Hazard told the Guardian it would be a dream to move to Madrid, saying, "Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I don’t want to lie today. It is my dream since I was a kid. I was dreaming about this club."

These quotes to this day still send shivers down Chelsea fans spines, praying they can marvel at the 28-year-old once again. Hazard gave hope when telling Football Focus that he backs Sarri and his style of football.

"Statistically it's my best season, and I like to say that because the way he's thinking is the same way I think football", said the brilliant Belgian.

"I think he is a fantastic manager. After (AntonioConte it was not easy. He came here with his own ideas to play football and I think we have done quite well."

Now with Champions League football back on the cards, the trophy Hazard is desperate to lift, perhaps Chelsea have the blackmail they need in persuading him to stick around, if not for just one more season. 

Squad assembly 

Of the players already mentioned, Giroud's contract expires this June, with the possibility of a year extension, whereas Chelsea have the option to sign Higuain permanently. Mateo Kovacic looks likely to return to Madrid after an underwhelming loan spell.

Hazard, along with Pedro and Willian, have 12 months left of their current contracts. Gary Cahill announced his departure from the club he'd served for seven years, his final appearance coming against Watford at the weekend. Include a perishing life in London for David Luiz and you are set to lose a crock of those who participated in recent European escapades. These must be replaced with suitably experienced figures, with know-how of top level.

Back up 'keepers Willy Cabellero and Robert Green are in similar spots, in that their deals at Chelsea end in less than 30 days, so another goal keeper should be top of the transfer shopping list.  

To juggle the league, two domestic cups and a stint in the Champions League requires a squad with depth and quality which Chelsea can certainly add to.

Out of their sizeable loanee squadron, the likes of Michy Batshuayi, Alvaro Morata, Victor Moses, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Kurt Zouma all possess a degree of European pedigree, thus a recall may be on the cards.

Derby County duo Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have had standout seasons under Frank Lampard, however they're just not ripe enough for the stellar step up. 

Inclusion of £58 million man Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund will bolster the fire power, increasing the numbers to have stepped up to Champions League level; the American international played in the competition on seven occasions for BVB this term.  

Add to that the English promise of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley and potentially Callum Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea have an exciting, youthful squad; this could play into their hands, as demonstrated by Ajax or could leave them with shortcomings of not enough experience at the highest level. 

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