Guus Hiddink wrote off Chelsea's chances of reaching the top four following the 1-1 draw with Stoke.
The Blues were leading though a Bertrand Traore strike and five minutes from picking up a fourth straight win to maintain their late, late surge towards the Champions League spots.
However, a rare mistake by Thibaut Courtois gifted Mame Diouf an equaliser and left Stamford Bridge boss Hiddink admitting fourth place looks beyond them now. "That's difficult, almost impossible," he said. "Especially when other teams are knocking on the door as well.
"Yet in December we were near the relegation zone, so get to the middle of the table and now have a beautiful March and April to look forward to with the Champions League and the FA Cup would be nice."
Chelsea's Champions League future this season rests on Wednesday night's return leg against Paris Saint-Germain, whom they trail 2-1.
Hiddink thinks Diego Costa will be fit for that clash despite sitting out against Stoke with a minor tendon problem.