Interim boss Rafa Benitez has questioned the ‘hunger’ of his Chelsea squad after last season’s Champions League success.
The Blues could become the first European Cup holders to be knocked out of the competition at the group stage when they face Nordsjaelland on Wednesday.
Only a win over the Danish side and a Juventus victory at already-qualified Shakhtar Donetsk will ensure they avoid such ignominy.
Chelsea have struggled in this year’s competition, securing just two wins out of their five group games so far – with their most recent defeat to Juventus leading to the dismissal of manager Roberto Di Matteo – and his replacement Benitez has now hinted that the Blues’ success in Munich last year could have reduced the current squad’s desire this term.
“As a top side, who have already won trophies, but you’re missing one, that is the ambition,” Benitez told reporters.
“Chelsea won the Champions League, a massive achievement, but now they’ve done that it changes the perspective a bit for the next season.
“It changes the hunger of the players, and the staff. If you want to stay at the maximum level for a while you have to be competitive. It’s part of our job to push them and try and keep the competition.
“The normal situation is like this in any club. I can talk about the things I can see: every training session, the commitment is there. I can’t say they don’t want to win, because they won it. I think it’s the opposite.”
The former Liverpool and Inter manager also believes Chelsea are suffering from a lack of leadership on the pitch, with senior players Frank Lampard and John Terry out injured.
Benitez continued: “I don’t really think it’s because the character is missing. The problem we have is some of the key players who have that character who are missing at the moment.
“They are injured. so the younger players who come in have to adapt and learn about the Premier League. The character is there, but it’s not on the pitch, because they’re injured.
“We have some good players, young players, out on the pitch but to have Lampard and Terry on the pitch would help.
“The level and quality can help, but you have to have some character to be competitive. We often say you need time for foreign players.”