11 Million Reasons Why Chelsea Must End the Season Strongly

It’s a defeat that will hurt Mauricio Pochettino’s young side for a while.

Chelsea gave as good as they got against Manchester City in their FA Cup semi-final, arguably creating enough chances to win the game before falling prey to Bernardo Silva’s winner.

There will be no silverware for the Blues in 2023/24, but there’s still plenty to play for – with the lure of finishing as high as sixth in the Premier League table worth a considerable amount both in terms of prestige and prize money.

Six of the Best

Some pundits will argue that Chelsea’s season has been a disaster, but a top six finish and a major cup semi-final for a team still in transition? That would be a decent result by even the harshest of critics’ measure.

The EPL odds make Chelsea a 4/1 chance to nick sixth place from Newcastle United (5/4) and Manchester United (6/4), with the Blues enjoying a game in hand and a better goal difference than the Red Devils.

Fixtures against West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Bournemouth are eminently winnable too, so there’s every chance that Chelsea could yet gatecrash the top six.

Finishing in sixth place could yield a place in next season’s Europa League, which might be a positive thing for Chelsea given the size of their squad – it would enable Pochettino the chance to field his fringe players and ensure they are getting plenty of minutes. It would also guarantee the club at least three extra games at Stamford Bridge, which brings added revenue into the coffers.

The difference in prize money is also a consideration. Finishing ninth in the Premier League, the Blues’ current position, would net an estimated £44 million in ‘merit payments’.

But finishing sixth banks more than £55 million – in an era in which Todd Boehly has been no stranger to splashing the cash, that extra income would be more than welcome.

Forward Thinking

There’s another potential perk for Chelsea fans in the weeks ahead: Christopher Nkunku is nearing full fitness after his injury woes.

The French forward, a showpiece signing in the summer of 2023, has sadly missed almost all of the campaign after tearing knee ligaments in a pre-season friendly, before a brief return was halted due to a hamstring strain.

But after more recovery and rehab work, Nkunku is back on the grass, kicking a ball and involved in training sessions – with a view to being involved in the first-team picture before the end of the campaign.

“Now we need to see the reaction of his body and then how he is going to evolve,” Pochettino said, after confirming that the 26-year-old is back on the training field.

His potential return would be incredibly welcome given how profligate Chelsea’s attackers have been in front of goal. That was evidenced in the FA Cup semi-final, where several gilt-edged chances went begging, so a more clinical edge in finishing chances will be vital if the Blues are to breach the top six this season and/or next.

It may take some time for him to get up to full speed, but having scored 50 goals in his two season with RB Leipzig prior to joining Chelsea, Nkunku could yet prove to the Blues’ saviour this term.