Chelsea Eliminated from Champions League: Why the Future Is Bright

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Chelsea Eliminated from Champions League: Why the Future Is Bright
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Chelsea players actually communicating with each other vs FC Nordsjælland

Chelsea became the first Champions of Europe to exit the competition at the group stage the following year, as even a victory as comprehensive as their 6-1 drubbing of FC Nordsjælland at Stamford Bridge was not enough to see them through.

After the 3-0 defeat at the hands of Juventus in what turned out to be Roberto Di Matteo's last game as manager, the Blues needed Shakhtar Donetsk to beat the Italian side to stand any chance of progressing. 

Despite desperate pleading prayers to the gods of football, Juventus won 1-0 and gained top spot in Group E, whilst Shakhtar progressed in second place due to having a higher away-goal ratio in their head-to-head results with Chelsea.

This means that Chelsea will drop into the Europa League for the remainder of their European competition this season. If they hadn't managed to pull off the unthinkable by winning the Champions League, that is precisely where they would have been playing anyway, as they finished sixth in the Premier League. Look at it as karmic justice, if you will.

Putting their early exit from Europe's elite competition aside, there are some positives that have come from their victory over the Group E minnows.

Rafael Benitez has been under heavy fire from all sides since he was appointed as interim manager until the end of the season. He came in and said he was going to win games before leading the side to two draws and a loss in the Premier League. This continuation of the Blues' poor run of form increased the pressure on the manager, and things were beginning to look seriously bleak.

However, with a victory now under his belt and an inevitable boost to his players' morale, Benitez should be able to keep the forward momentum going. A victory at the Club World Cup in Japan will add to the glimmer of positivity around the club, and with some additions to the squad in the January transfer window, Chelsea could still challenge for four pieces of silverware.

The second positive aspect to the game was that Fernando Torres scored two goals, something almost unthinkable this time last week. Although he could have scored several more and still doesn't look as sharp as the striker of old, just getting his name on the score sheet should help him to press on and rediscover the form he showed when he was working with Benitez at Liverpool.

Chelsea have looked like a bunch of lost individuals in recent games, but they became a cohesive unit again and put together some lovely possession and passing play. Of course I understand that their opposition wasn't of the calibre that they are used to facing, but just the opportunity to focus on playing their own game looked to make the side gel again.

With the imminent return of both John Terry and Frank Lampard, Chelsea will have their leaders back, and when added to their re-found team spirit, they will undoubtedly improve even more as a squad.

As bleak as it all looked after seven games without a win, this will be the point that Chelsea's season turns around, back to the hope and optimism that August brought, with the promise of a big, shiny reward at the end of it.

Granted, it won't be the same as retaining their Champions League crown, but who wants to win the same trophy twice, when you can win a different one every year?

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