Cesc Fabregas hopes Chelsea can challenge for the Premier League title in their first season under Antonio Conte, as the midfielder prepares himself for a campaign without Champions League football.
A disastrous 2015-16 has seen the west London club surrender their domestic crown without a fight, prompting the dismissal of manager Jose Mourinho.
They are ninth in the table with four games to go, Guus Hiddink having been unable to guide the team back into the top four after taking over in December.
The Dutchman will make way for long-term successor Conte, set to coach Italy at Euro 2016, in the off-season.
The former Juventus boss will be tasked with challenging for the title and, as a minimum expectation, securing a return to UEFA’s elite club competition for 2017-18.
“It is a disappointing season,” Spanish midfielder Fabregas told sport1.de.
“It will be the first time in years I won’t play Champions League. We must come back stronger. I hope that we can compete for the title in England next year. In Antonio Conte there will be a new manager. He has proven that he can work successfully, especially at Juventus he had a strong time.
“We want to attack. Liverpool can achieve something with [Jurgen] Klopp, and Manchester City will get a strong manager in Pep Guardiola,” he added, referring to his former Barcelona coach, who will leave Bayern Munich for the Eithad Stadium at the end of the season.
Chelsea’s next match is at home to second-placed Tottenham on Monday, by which time – should leaders Leicester City beat Manchester United at Old Trafford a day earlier – the destination of the title will be decided in the Foxes’ favour.
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