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Branislav Ivanovic backs Chelsea squad, defends Eden Hazard

Julian Finney/Getty Images

As Chelsea's Champions League dream came to an end for this season, we were left to face the reality of the situation.  There will be no Champions League football for Chelsea next season, and if we're not careful, our absence from Europe's highest profile competition could be longer than just one season.

In the face of this looming disaster, Vice-captain Branislav Ivanovic retains his confidence in the current Chelsea squad, claiming that the team has enough quality to win the FA Cup this season and come back stronger in the Premier League in the next one.

"I will really miss playing in the Champions League a lot. All of the players dream to play in the Champions League, we live for the competition and the games. It's going to be very disappointing to not be in it next season."

"But this team has the character to grow and finish in the top four next season. We can fight for the title. We can come back stronger for the Champions League. It's very difficult for me to think about what will happen in the future right now. This season hasn't finished yet."

"We still have nine league games to go and one competition, the FA Cup, to fight for and to win. We have to focus on that. We have another final for us in a couple of days [in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Everton] and we have to cope."

Once a hero to Chelsea fans, Eden Hazard came under fire yesterday once again, this time due to changing shirts with PSG's Ángel Di María at half-time, even though he didn't have a bad performance per se. Ivanovic defended Hazard against accusations over his commitment to the team, lauding Eden's performance and general attitude.

"It's not an excuse, but people have to think about the fact [Hazard] started the game injured. Did that show how committed he is? Yes. Of course when you lose a game the fans are not happy and they have to be like that."

"But in my opinion it was one of his best performances so far. He was very strong and quick. He wanted to score and had a couple of actions where he looked like last season."

One of Chelsea's best players on the pitch last night was Diego Costa, who had to leave the game in the 60th minute due to an injury. Ivanovic is obviously hoping that's not a long term, serious problem.

"Diego started the game injured and he did everything to be on the pitch yesterday. He did an amazing job, he scored the goal, but when you see your main striker go out of the game, it's difficult from then of course. We hope it's nothing serious, I hope everything is good."

Despite being the underdogs, there were periods in yesterday's match -- such as in the first half, after conceding the first PSG goal -- when Chelsea played some of their best football all season. Unfortunately it wasn't enough.

"We had three other players carrying injuries and in this kind of game, you have to be at your top level to qualify and need to be 100 per cent strong. Being knocked out is very tough to take. It was a difficult game, PSG played really well. They did what they wanted to do by scoring the first goal."

"But after that we were the better team, we equalised and tried to do everything to get a second one to go into extra time. When it was still 1-1, I thought it could go either way. We had a good chance to score, but when they got the second one it was all over for us."

"We knew at that moment we had to score three goals with just over 20 minutes to go and that is almost impossible. We tried everything to win the game. In the end PSG went through and congratulations to them."

-Branislav Ivanovic; source: London Evening Standard

Last night, until PSG's tie-settling goal, this Chelsea group showed a lot of grit, something that we haven't seen very often this season. It would appear that at least some of the players still care about the badge. But how it will all turn out once the new manager comes in and puts his stamp on the squad remains to be seen. We could be in for plenty of changes.

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