Petr Cech told his Chelsea team-mates it was up to them to prove they had not blown their only chance of Club World Cup glory following their shock final defeat to Corinthians on Sunday.
The 1-0 loss in Yokohama saw the Blues waste what could prove a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be officially recognised as champions of the world.
No sooner had they left the field than cracks appeared to emerge between those Chelsea players for whom the Club World Cup meant absolutely everything — namely their Brazilian imports — and those who clearly still see it as something of an ugly sister to the Champions League.
Fortunately, even the latter group will have little trouble motivating themselves to regain the club’s real Holy Grail of the European Cup, which would guarantee them another world title shot.
But having already suffered the embarrassment of Champions League elimination this season, it will be at least another two years before Chelsea are back where they were last week.
Goalkeeper Cech said: “I said to the guys on the pitch, ‘now, it’s only up to us’. If we want to have another chance, we need to qualify for next year’s Champions League.
“We will try to win it, and then we can come to the same tournament again and have another go.
“So, it is the only way.”
Victory would have also have made the arduous trip to and from Japan worthwhile, despite the Club World Cup adding to the punishing schedule that could further derail their season.
Defeat simply made it even harder for manager Rafael Benitez to lift his players physically and mentally for tomorrow’s Capital One Cup trip to Leeds and a Premier League title race in which they are now 13 points adrift of leaders Manchester United.
To make matters worse, Chelsea look set to be without both the injured John Terry and Gary Cahill at Elland Road after the latter’s late sending off on Sunday.
Having already missed out on four trophies before Christmas this season Chelsea will be desperate not to suffer a third elimination in a fortnight against one of their arch-rivals.
For his part, Leeds boss Neil Warnock is realistic about his side’s chances against Chelsea, admitting that if the European champions play to their potential there is little his team can do to stop them.
Leeds head into the clash at Elland Road on the back of four wins in their last five matches, and will take on a Chelsea side who have taken just seven points from a possible 21.
However, Warnock believes the strength in depth Chelsea have still makes them overwhelming favourites.
“You never know if it’s your last big cup tie really, so it whets the appetite,” he said. “I don’t think I could have picked a better team to play against.
“It promises to be fabulous with no pressure on us. Whatever team I select we can just go out and enjoy it.
“I hope we go out and give them a good game, but if we play well and they do as well there’s only one winner, so we have to hope they’re not right up to it and we’re on top of our game.”
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