Frank Lampard does not believe qualification for the Champions League is critical to Chelsea's mission to close the gap on their Wednesday night opponents Liverpool, but he admits the competition's "prestige" would help that process.
Chelsea are conducting one of their most ambitious rebuilding jobs since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. They have already signed Timo Werner from RB Leipzig and Hakim Ziyech from Ajax for a combined fee of £84m ($105m).
The Blues remained locked in talks with Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz and have been targeting Leicester City's Ben Chilwell and West Ham's Declan Rice, although those deals looking increasingly unlikely.
Yet, the current work behind the scenes underlines the club's ambition ahead of the trip to Anfield to come, before they welcome Wolves to Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season.
Lampard, as one would expect, wants Champions League football to accompany that work off the field.
"It’s massively important for the club," Lampard told reporters on a Zoom video conference call. "Not just for the prestige. But if you are a club on the world stage like Chelsea have been you want to compete at the highest level and attract players of the highest level.
"It obviously generates money for the club, let’s make no bones about it. So you understand why there is such intense scrutiny on who finishes in the top four. It would have been unheard of a good few years ago. Now it becomes not a trophy but an accomplishment in itself.
“We want to move further than that so we look on upwards in the Premier League but getting into the Champions League has to be, even with the way this year the season has gone, it has to be an aim for us.”
Chelsea are currently in third, one point ahead of both Manchester United and Leicester in a three-way battle for two spots in next season's Champions League.
The fifth-placed team will play in the Europa League next season but Lampard was keen to further explain that it wouldn't be a catastrophe should the Blues fall short with two difficult fixtures to end their season.
"I understand the black and white judgement of the outside world and the Chelsea fans about it because it’s a clear objective to get into the Champions League," he added.
"My feeling is when you’re inside and you’re working daily and searching for improvements and signs in where you want to get to, it’s that whether you come in the top four or whether it was not to quite work out for us from some of the strides we’ve made this year, there are huge positives that I feel at the club and in what we may do going forward.
"I have a huge desire to get there but I’d still feel we’ve made huge strides. We weren’t really in too many people’s top fours at the start of the season. We’ve forced ourselves in there. I desperately hope we get there.
"But for me, it shouldn’t put this club off its stride much because there were a lot of testing moments this year. We’ve shown intentions of moving in the right direction.
"I hope I’m showing that in the way I’m working with the players and I think the players are showing that with performances like Sunday. I get that it’s black and white on the outside. I don’t think it should be on the inside."
Chelsea will give Liverpool a guard of honour on Wednesday and, regardless of the result, watch them lift the title at Anfield after the match. Jurgen Klopp's side sit 30 points ahead of the Blues and Lampard admits that their rivals have shown the formula for to achieve glory.
"I'm not sure many expected Liverpool to be so dominant in the results they had, up until the back end of the season, once they won it. I understand that we are behind them - the points and that gap doesn't lie, necessarily," the manager explained.
"We've seen the work of Liverpool in the last two or three years to understand how they get there. We have to work in our own way towards that. They've added well to their squad. They've recruited at really good time, with really important players, and they have an incredible manager who develops players.
"So in our own way we have to try and find a way how we move forward, to try and close that gap, which is, which is still pretty big. We want to close the gap. I'm not here to try to buy time.
"I'm here to try and get as quickly as we can and as fast as we can to be where we want to be. But we have to understand that there may be still a bit of a work in progress there."