Laudrup: Chelsea need Champions League
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup believes failure to qualify for the Champions League is simply not an option for Sunday's opponents Chelsea.
The Blues currently lie fourth in the Premier League table, a point ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham and one behind third-placed Arsenal, over whom they have a game in hand. Rafael Benitez's side are also on course to reach the final of the Europa League after Thursday's semi-final first leg victory over Basle.
But Laudrup believes securing a place at European football's top table is of more importance to the current Champions League holders, particularly claiming a top-three spot to avoid having to go through the qualifying stages. "For a club like Chelsea it would be a huge disappointment if they do not reach the Champions League," said the Dane.
"They have to go into the Champions League not only because of the money but also the prestige. The top clubs feel they have to be in that competition every year. Chelsea need to be there."
He added: "There are four places for the Champions League, but there is always that small doubt about the fourth spot because you have to play one round before you go into the group stages. All the big clubs want to avoid that so Chelsea will be going for the third spot."
Given the vast amount Chelsea paid to secure the services of Fernando Torres a little over two years ago, the Spaniard should be viewed as a key figure in their push for a top-four spot. But the 29-year-old has not scored a Premier League goal since December 23, a run of almost 1,000 minutes of top-flight action without finding the net.
However, Laudrup remains wary of the striker's abilities.
He said: "Fernando has played under enormous pressure. It is not easy for him.
"But, as a player, you have to accept that - especially when a team spends £50million on you. People in Spain still have a lot of respect for him.
"Torres is always a key man you have to stop. One of the worst things you can do is say, 'he hasn't scored for a long time so we will leave him'. He still has a lot of quality."