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Chelsea Cruises to Europa League Knockouts: Distraction or Opportunity?

Even though Chelsea could only draw 0-0 with Everton at Stamford Bridge last weekend the team remains in good shape. With a 1-0 win over Bate Borisov in their previous game on the fourth matchday of the Europa League Group Stage, Chelsea comfortably qualified for the knockout stage of the competition. The Blues have been playing well in Europe and the Premier League, but some fans will be worried that the Europa League is simply a distraction from the bigger prize.

New manager Maurizio Sarri has instilled hope at Stamford Bridge after a weak performance last season in the League under Antonio Conte. Chelsea look to be genuinely contending for a Premier League title again at this early stage in the season.

If fans had to pick between the Europa League and Premier League, the Chelsea faithful would pick a Premier League title every time despite winning the Europa League offering a berth in next season’s Champions League.

Given the way Chelsea are performing in the League this season, Champions League qualification looks like it will not be a problem so Blues fans would surely like Sarri and his players to focus on winning the Premier League title.

So far, the Europa League has been a place for some rotation and allowing star players some rest. But, Sarri and Chelsea may be tempted to throw more into the competition if they progress further and if their League title aspirations start to fail. Chelsea has perhaps the most quality in the competition, so they will be favourites in most games they play.

Stars Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kanté have returned to their superb form from Chelsea’s Premier League title win two years ago. Also, Ross Barkley has been a revelation after signing from Everton last season.

Sarri’s new signings are also wresting control of the Chelsea midfield with Jorginho and Kovacic familiarizing themselves with the English game. On their early season form, many fans will be optimistic about a top four finish or a potential title win.

However, the Europa League can get in the way of Premier League glory. Other Premier League title contenders have Champions League football to contend with, and while these teams will put more effort into the top European competition, many will fail early in the competition.

On the other hand, Chelsea could see a deep run in the Europa League. While this would be exciting for fans, a Premier League title would be all the sweeter.

However, Europa League football has not got in the way of Chelsea success so far this season and despite the stalemate against Marco Silva’s Everton on Sunday, and the narrow win over BATE Borisov before that the odds offered by betting companies like Stakers betting show Chelsea as favourites in their upcoming 3 Premier League games even though the Blues face tough fixtures against Spurs, Fulham now managed by old boss Claudio Ranieri and surprise package Wolves with a huge clash against Champions Man City to follow that.

Rather than seeing the Europa League as a distraction, fans could also interpret the competition as an opportunity for the team to gain confidence and experiment with new line-ups. Second choice players will have a greater chance to show their worth to the new manager and they can push starting players for a spot in the starting XI.

Europa League form can also carry over into the Premier League. So far this season, Chelsea are unbeaten in league games directly after the Europa League which bodes well as the Blues have carried their winning ways from Europe back home to London.

There will always be a concern that injuries may plague the starting lineup, and increased travel time can cause fatigue. But with the quality and Sarri and Chelsea’s disposal, the club should be able to cope with multiple competitions.

Having a fully fit Eden Hazard is a big plus for Sarri this campaign even though the Belgian ace has revealed he is still tired from the World Cup.

For the Spurs match Sarri will surely field his strongest XI and will be hoping Hazard can be the catalyst for a win which will show the rest of their rivals that this Chelsea team is for real.

A Europa League game is next on the fixture list after Tottenham. And with knockout stage qualification wrapped up, Chelsea fans should expect a rotated team to take the field against Greek side PAOK.

The PAOK game will be a great opportunity for fringe players, and it should be a joy for diehard fans to watch players fighting for their place in a talented Chelsea squad as they prepare for 3 big League games after the visit of the Greek outfit.

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