Chelsea first Europa Conference League matches revealed as new manager faces worst scenario

Chelsea FC's stadium, Stamford Bridge
-Credit: (Image: James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Chelsea will be playing in the Europa Conference League next season despite having finished sixth in the Premier League table following Manchester United's surprise FA Cup win over rivals Manchester City.

The Blues managed to secure themselves some sort of European football qualification on the final day of the campaign which saw them beat Bournemouth 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to cap off a brilliant end to the season with a five-game winning run. However, just three days later, manager Mauricio Pochettino walked away from the club after just 11 months in charge.

It's believed the Argentinian went into a meeting with co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, alongside sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, and both parties agreed that going separate ways was for the best. Since then, Chelsea have been searching for someone new to head their dugout for the 2024/25 campaign, with a myriad of names having been linked to the post.

Ex-Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi, Stuttgart boss Sebastian Hoeness and Leicester City's Enzo Maresca were floated around as options on the club's current shortlist, along with Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna who met with Chelsea officials to discuss a potential deal that would see him leave the Tractor Boys after back-to-back promotions from League One to the top flight of English football.

There is also one 'mystery' target that the club's board of directors are keen on, with it widely speculated to be Sporting manager Ruben Amorim, with the 39-year-old fresh off a title win in Portugal, as he fits the profile of what the Blues owners are said to want in a manager, with a young, possession-based head coach.

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It's fair to say whoever takes over in the Chelsea dugout, expectations will be high as the ownership will want to build upon the success they've started to see at the end of the season. After the torrid 2022/23 campaign that saw four managerial changes and a 12th-place finish in Boehly's first year at the top, anything less than what they've achieved this season will be seen a big failure in the eyes of both the supporters and the club.

The Europa Conference League, therefore, marks brand new territory for the club and entering it now means they could become the first club in Europe to win all four major European titles, having already won the Champions League (2012, 2021), the Europa League (2013, 2019) and the European Cup Winners' Cup (1971, 1998).

The Blues will now be set to play in a two-leg play-off qualifier for the competition proper come the start of the new campaign, with the dates set for Thursday, August 22 and Thursday, August 29 2024 against an unknown opponent. The draw for the playoff round will take place on Monday, August 5 and will include the likes of La Liga side Real Betis, the Bundesliga's 1899 Hoffenheim and Ligue 1 club RC Lens.

With the Premier League set to kick-off just five days before the first leg, it'll mean an early start to the European competition for whoever the new manager at Stamford Bridge may be.