The odds on Chelsea finishing in the top four next season have lengthened after they agreed to sell star player Eden Hazard to Real Madrid. The Belgian forward banged in 16 goals and provided 15 assists in 2018/19, meaning he directly contributed to more goals than any other Premier League player. He will leave a massive void and Chelsea have been hit with a transfer ban for the next two windows, so they are unlikely to replace him. An appeal has been lodged with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but as things stand they will be unable to strengthen this summer.
The Blues secured a third-placed finish this season, one point ahead of Tottenham and two clear of Arsenal. However, without Hazard’s contribution, they would have struggled badly and they will need to find another source of goals and creativity. He was at his brilliant best in leading Chelsea to a thumping 4-1 win over Arsenal in the Europa League final, and Blues fans can treasure plenty of great memories of his time at Stamford Bridge. Yet they could experience short-term difficulties now that he has pushed through a move to the Bernabeu.
Many bookmakers now have shorter odds on Man Utd finishing in the top four than Chelsea next season, according to a bookmaker review and a look at the best prices on offer. Man City and Liverpool are all but certain to finish in the top four once again, while Spurs are given a strong chance and many bookies see it as a straight fight between Chelsea and Man Utd to secure that final place. Arsenal endured a dismal end to the season and they are unlikely to strengthen significantly in the summer, so they are considered outsiders, but some sites now have similar odds on them and Chelsea.
Whoever replaces Maurizio Sarri as manager will have a tough job on his hands as he bids to steer this team into the top four once more. They have already signed Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund and he should give them another intriguing dimension in attack. But Pedro and Willian have seen better days, so it will be vital that they keep hold of Callum Hudson-Odoi, who submitted a transfer request in January in a bid to force through a move to Bayern Munich.
Gonzalo Higuain’s loan spell will not be extended, so they will only have Olivier Giroud up front. Yet they had three decent strikers out on loan this season – Alvaro Morata at Atletico Madrid, Michy Batshuayi at Crystal Palace and Tammy Abraham at Aston Villa – and at least one of them is likely to return to the fold. Bakayoko could also return, although he was a bit of a disaster last season, while Victor Moses is another option to bring back if the new manager wants to play with wing-backs.
Yet these players were ultimately loaned out because they were not considered good enough to make the cut at Chelsea, and it is hard to see them challenging for the title without heavy investment in the first team. But they still have plenty of experience at the back, while there are a number of options in midfield. Matteo Kovacic could join on a permanent deal, while they have N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Ross Barkley all competing for a place. Ruben Loftus-Cheek should be given a chance when he returns from a serious injury too. If the new manager returns Kante to the holding midfield role, Chelsea could have a strong season. But they will nervously be watching the progress made by Tottenham, Man Utd and Arsenal in this summer’s transfer market and hoping that trio do not strengthen too much.