Chelsea send warning to European rivals

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Cesc Fabregas

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Chelsea fired a warning to their Champions League rivals on Tuesday night with a crushing 5-0 win over Schalke 04 to book their place in the knockout phase.

Such has been the London club?s dominance in the Premier League that bookmaker Paddy Power has already paid out on them winning the title. They are unbeaten in all competitions and currently hold a six-point advantage over Southampton. That could easily have been double figures but for conceding late goals against Manchester City and Manchester United away from home.

Jose Mourinho has been keen to play down the quality of his side, arguing that they will be measured only in the number of trophies that they win. However, it is looking very ominous for their Premiership rivals as they head into the busy Christmas schedule.

That quality had been absent from their Champions League performances until Schalke on Tuesday night. Leading scorer Diego Costa nearly scored with their first attack but it was only a matter of minutes before John Terry headed them into the lead. A neatly worked move ended with Willian firing in a second before an own-goal ended any hopes of a Schalke revival before half-time.

Further goals from substitutes Didier Drogba and Ramires did not flatter Chelsea at all as they dominated from start to finish. It was a humbling experience for Schalke coach Roberto Di Matteo who managed Chelsea to their first Champions League victory in 2012.

Bookmakers may not be doing a lot of business on the Premier League title but Chelsea are still attractively priced for European success. They were cut to a general 11-2 after Tuesday?s win, leaving only Real Madrid and Bayern Munich ahead of them. With Bayern losing at Manchester City and Real Madrid beating Basel 1-0, it was Chelsea that were making the clearest statement in European football this week.

Those looking for a possible Achilles heel in the Blues? set up have questioned whether or not they have sufficient back-up should Diego Costa suffer a serious injury. Loic Remy was bought to fill the void but picked up a knock in an earlier qualifier while Drogba has only shown glimpses of his former prowess.

At 36, it was always likely that the Ivorian would have only a limited role to play this season but he gleefully accepted his chance on Tuesday. He was presented with a tap in by Willian and then set up Ramires to complete the rout. If Chelsea continue in their current form, they will fear nobody in Europe this season.