Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has hinted he has prioritised Tuesday's meeting with Leicester over the two sides' FA Cup final clash because club chiefs have always stressed their desire to reach the top four.
The Blues fell 1-0 to an excellent Youri Tielemans strike at Wembley and must now brace themselves for another meeting with Leicester which could well decide both sides' fates this season. It's third vs fourth and whichever team loses may well kiss their Champions League hopes goodbye.
While Tuchel was adamant he did not throw the FA Cup away intentionally, he did stress that Chelsea have always been more focused on qualifying for the Champions League and suggested he would go all-out to secure victory on Tuesday.
“It would look like I am a bad loser if I say yes,” Tuchel said (via The Guardian) when asked if he had sacrificed the FA Cup. “I am not a good loser but I want to be a respectful loser and I am not here to play the match down because of financial reasons.
"We lost a big match, it was a huge match for us, we put out the best team possible. We did not rest anybody because we had the feeling that this game is more important.
“But there is a but. Do we want to play Champions League next season? Yes, this is the target when I stepped into this club. I want to be very clear – the task was: ‘Let’s try everything to be in the top four.’ The task was not: ‘Let’s try everything to win the FA Cup’ because the FA Cup, as big as it is, does not bring you to Champions League football next season. It’s top four that brings us that.
“[Tuesday] is another huge game but, like I said, this game was big for us. It was a final. Once you can collect silverware you try everything because simply out of respect. And me and the players – be very sure about this – think zero about how much money we earn. This is not in our heads.”
Tuchel has faced intense criticism for his heavy rotation of Chelsea - something he confessed cost his side in their 1-0 loss to Arsenal - and he admitted he has found it hard to balance minutes so far in his Chelsea career.
“You’re always a bit torn between not wanting to change at all and knowing I cannot play the next ten games with the same squad,” he said.
“You can never reverse and know what would have happened if Timo Werner had played against Arsenal - would he have scored or not? You simply don’t know. Sometimes you regret your decisions as a coach.”
Victory for Chelsea would see them leapfrog Leicester into third and leave them needing to match Leicester's final-day result against Tottenham in their meeting with Aston Villa to book a spot in next season's Champions League, but defeat would open the door for Liverpool to sneak in.