Chelsea have been forced to face the possibility of missing out on a spot in the Champions League next season, sparking concerns they could lose star players Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois in the summer.
Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United leaves Antonio Conte's men fifth in the Premier League table, two points behind Tottenham Hotspur in the final Champions League qualifying place.
The Blues could lose out on a share of UEFA's £1.1 billion payout, but the potential loss of star players to European rivals could hurt them even more.
Chelsea are keen to renew the contracts of both Hazard and Courtois. However, the duo are stalling on agreeing deals as the team continues to struggle for consistency, throwing their futures into doubt.
Courtois, contracted to Stamford Bridge until June 2019, has made no secret of the fact that he wants to move back to Madrid eventually, with his two children living in the city after his loan spell at Atletico Madrid.
Real Madrid have a number of big-name goalkeepers in their crosshairs. The Belgian shot-stopper is on the list alongside Manchester United's David de Gea, AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak.
Meanwhile, Hazard has an extra year on his contract, his family are settled in London and he ranks as Chelsea's most marketable player.
Hazard will become a club legend if he signs a new deal, but a finish outside the top four could turn his head with Real Madrid and Manchester City interested in the Belgium captain.
Chelsea are unlikely to risk losing the duo for free. The club are now running a tighter ship, but the transfer policy has frustrated Antonio Conte as they reduce their net spend by selling a few of their numerous loanees, alongside high-profile players like Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic to fund further business.
Hazard and Courtois might not be the only two players to leave in the summer if Chelsea fail to secure Champions League football, with Conte's future in doubt despite his insistence he will finish his contract.
Without Champions League football, Chelsea would face an even tougher task to replace Hazard and Courtois.
Chelsea would have less money, less stability and, arguably, less prestige than their European rivals if they missed out on the continent's elite club competition, which might make things even harder for them.
Even after winning the Premier League title, Chelsea missed out on Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Sandro, Fernando Llorente and Danilo last summer.
Conte wanted Sanchez in the summer and in January but he understood that the Blues were unable to compete with the Manchester clubs, whose battle to sign the attacker ended up with the Chilean getting an incredible £500,000-a-week contract at Old Trafford.
Conte has been honest all season about expecting to have a "difficult year" and spoke of his renewed fear of missing out on Champions League football after the defeat to Jose Mourinho's United.
"There is this risk," said Conte of missing out on qualification. "We must be ready to be concentrated, and to understand this target is an important target for us.
"In this league, getting a place in the Champions League is not simple. We are disappointed with the final result. We had a great chance to get three points against a competitor for a place in the Champions League, but in the end we are talking about another defeat.
"This country has the only championship where you can find six teams who start the season by fighting to win the title or getting a place in the Champions League."
Liverpool face losing Emre Can, Tottenham could lose Toby Alderweireld, but the situation feels graver for Chelsea who could really do with stability in the playing squad or management team.
Champions League football brings in both the cash and prestige that Chelsea need to keep their best players, which will be absolutely essential to fight the giants of Manchester – particularly this special City side.