Guus Hiddink has written off Chelsea’s chances of reaching the top four following the 1-1 draw with Stoke on Saturday.
The Blues were leading though Bertrand Traore’s 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.”
Stoke secured a point in the 85th minute thanks to Diouf, who had missed two gilt-edged chances in the first half.
The normally-reliable Courtois opted to punch Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross, only to direct the ball straight onto the head of Diouf – and even he could not miss this time.
“Of course it’s frustrating to concede a late goal,” added Hiddink. “We scored a beautiful goal and Oscar should have had a clear penalty, that was a key moment. But we cannot say Stoke weren’t pushing. In the end I think its a fair result.”