CHELSEA's expensive experiment with Andre Villas-Boas will amount to a 'lost year' in the history of the club if they fail to qualify for the Champions League.
That's according to Petr Cech , who has been the bedrock of the Blues' repeated forays into Europe over the last eight seasons.
"It is a year lost in the progression of the club,” he said.
“You always have years when you go through the transition in the team and the team needs to be rebuilt. Or you have changes in terms of managers and players.
“For a big club you can accept that the team does not win the league because it is in transition, but you can't afford to slip out of the Champions League spots.
"Because the big teams are about the Champions League, and the importance is that it is much better than the Europa League, because there are so many games. It is different."
For Chelsea it is about more than just prestige. A Champions League run can reap £30-40million for the club in a single season, while getting to the final of the Europa league is worth only £10-14m.
In a season when Chelsea spent a reported £40m on changing from Carlo Ancelotti, to Villas-Boas, to caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo – the cash is a vital consideration.
Other big-spending teams that have failed to qualify for the Champions League, such as Liverpool and Valencia, struggled for years to get back in – costing huge amounts in both cash and club development.
Is that a risk for Chelsea? Cech said: “It is up to the club to make the right decisions. Liverpool had so many problems within the club, not really on the pitch, so that is why they kind of lost some time.
“But this club has the structure. I believe that one season will make a difference, because it will slow down all the process of being a Champions League club and hunting for trophies.
“But it will not be the end of Chelsea. I believe that we will come back."