CHELSEA goalkeeper Petr Cech believes it would be a major setback if the club failed to qualify for the Champions League - but not the end of their mission to conquer Europe.
Saturday's goalless draw against Tottenham was the most damaging result yet in Chelsea's bid to play in Europe's elite club competition for the 10th successive season.
Goalkeeper Cech knows how important the competition is to the club.
He is certain Chelsea would be able to react in the right way and atone for missing out, but nevertheless admitted it would be a big blow.
Cech said: "It is a year lost in the progression of the club. 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."
Cech is confident Chelsea would not suffer the same fate as Liverpool, were they to finish outside the top four. The Reds have been nowhere near getting back into the Champions League since their 2009 appearance.
Cech said: "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 (Chelsea) has the structure."
Liverpool demonstrated in 2005 that finishing fifth was not a bar to qualifying for the Champions League, provided you win the competition.
But as Chelsea headed to Lisbon today, ahead of a quarter-final first leg against Benfica, that is arguably an even tougher task, with the likes of Barcelona lying in wait.