Belfast Telegraph

Perfect run-in can secure Champions League spot for Chelsea, vows Willian

Looking ahead: Chelsea’s Willian wants Champions League return
Looking ahead: Chelsea’s Willian wants Champions League return

By Matt McGeechan

Willian says "every game is a final" for Chelsea in their quest to return to the Champions League.

Maurizio Sarri's side have nine Premier League fixtures remaining in which to secure a top-four finish, starting with tomorrow's home game against Wolves.

The Blues could also qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League.

They appear on course for the quarter-finals after a superb second-half free-kick from Willian helped inspire Thursday's dominant 3-0 win in the first leg of their last-16 tie with Dynamo Kiev.

"Now is the moment we have to win every game," he said.

"Every game is a final for us now and we have to go well in every game.

"We know our targets, we know what we want, we want to reach the top four, to stay there, and play Champions League next season."

With Manchester City and Liverpool involved in a two-horse title race, sixth-placed Chelsea are competing for one of the other two Champions League spots along with Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Despite the Blues' current position, a top-four finish remains within their control as they are only two points behind fourth-placed United with a game in hand.

Sarri's team are also set to face Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side at Old Trafford on April 28.

Chelsea failed to qualify for the Champions League last season under Antonio Conte following a fifth-placed finish which led to the Italian's sacking.

Defender David Luiz believes the Blues are fortunate to have two chances to return to the competition.

The 31-year-old defender, who was stand-in captain against Kiev, said: "We are lucky and I am happy because we have two opportunities and so let's fight for both."

Meanwhile, Chelsea say they are "astonished" at Fifa's decision not to freeze the club's transfer ban while an appeal against the sanction takes place.

The Premier League club were last month banned from signing players for the next two transfer windows after Fifa ruled they had breached regulations relating to the recruitment of minors.

Chelsea denied any wrongdoing and subsequently lodged an appeal with the governing body.

However, Fifa's appeal committee announced yesterday that an application to temporarily suspend the penalty had been rejected.

The London club described the move as "inconsistent" with how previous cases have been handled.

"Chelsea Football Club is astonished by the Fifa appeal committee's decision not to suspend its sanction pending completion of the appeal process," read a statement on the club website.

Fifa's decision means the original restrictions stand and Chelsea will be unable to recruit new players this summer or in the January 2020 transfer window.

In similar cases, Spanish clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were each granted provisional measures which ensured bans were not immediately enforced while appeals were ongoing. Chelsea will consider their next steps once written reasons for the decision are received from Fifa. This could include an appeal against this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"As a matter of procedural fairness and equality of treatment, and Swiss law, the club's right to an appeal process must be afforded, before any irremediable sanction takes effect," the statement said.

"So far as the club is aware, in all previous cases where a registration ban has been imposed by Fifa, a decision has also been made to suspend the sanction until the appeal process has been completed. In this case, Chelsea considers that it is being treated inconsistently in comparison with other European clubs."

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