Room for Improvement in the Champions League

Heading into the 2015 summer transfer window, José Mourinho has work to do if Chelsea are to stand a chance to win next season’s UEFA Champions League.

The Premier League was won with three games to spare, and in truth, looked wrapped up very early into the season, even if Manchester City clawed their way back to level points at the top at the beginning of the New Year.

Manchester City ended up eight points behind the champions, and with the League Cup won on 1 March, it was all-in-all a great season for Chelsea.

Mourinho knows that City, Arsenal and Manchester United will all make significant upgrades to their squads this summer to make a stronger title challenge in 2015-16, but that Chelsea are currently favourites to defend their title.

The Champions League however is a different story. Aside from Chelsea’s surprise success in 2012, English clubs have fared badly in Europe’s most-prized possession for a number of seasons now. While Chelsea fans attending games at Stamford Bridge have come to expect Blues’ dominance in domestic games, they’ve also seen the team fail to get the basics right in Europe, home and away.

10-man Paris Saint-Germain were able to dump the Premier League champions out at Stamford Bridge at the second round stage this past season. The French Ligue 1 champions were winners on away goals but no-one can deny they were the better team over two legs and three-and-a-half hours of football.

PSG were then unceremoniously dumped out at the quarter-final stage by Barcelona, 5-1 on aggregate.

Chelsea weren’t tested by any of Europe’s top three sides this season – Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid, but few would back the English side from being able to beat either of those sides over two legs right now.

Mourinho’s side need to make a few key signings this summer.

Centre-back Gary Cahill saw his position under threat from Kurt Zouma during the turn of the year and the England international could find his position under further threat heading into next season if Chelsea are able to land any of their centre-back targets: Raphaël Varane or Antonio Rudiger.

Nemanja Matić was partnered by Cesc Fàbregas in a number of games this past season, but in the big games the Spaniard would often be pushed into the number 10 role with another holding midfielder partnering the Serbian – either Ramires, Zouma or John Obi Mikel.

None of those three would make Europe’s elite clubs in a holding midfield role. It’s another area where Chelsea can, and need to improve if they’re to compete with the best. Paul Pogba and Sami Khedira are two big names linked to Stamford Bridge recently who could both fill that void.

Chelsea fans were pleased with Willian’s performances throughout the season. The Brazilian is very hardworking, working off the ball and in his own half to win back possession for his side. However, his productivity in front of goal was weak.

Willian scored just two goals and recorded three assists in his 36 Premier League games this past season. In comparison, Barcelona have Lionel Messi, Bayern Munich have Thomas Müller and Real Madrid have Gareth Bale in that role – all regularly chipping in with goals and assists. It’s a position the Portuguese manager needs to consider – and he appears to have failed with January’s signing Juan Cuadrado.

Pedro and Gareth Bale have been rumoured but both of these must be considered longshots.

Finally, an additional striker is required for Chelsea. We won’t make much of Diego Costa failing to score in seven Champions League appearances for the Blues, but his hamstrings have got to be of real concern to the manager.

The Spanish international is a liability when it comes to his fitness, and with Didier Drogba being released, it leaves only Loïc Rémy and Patrick Bamford on the books – neither of those are going to fire a team to Champions League glory.

Antoine Griezmann, Edinson Cavani and Mauro Icardi have all been linked.

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