Ricardo Carvalho fears Chelsea's first UEFA Champions League final could be the final fling for several of the club's superstars. Avram Grant's side face Manchester United in Moscow on Wednesday with uncertainty surrounding the futures of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Andriy Shevchenko, Florent Malouda and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Even Carvalho admits he can't guarantee if he will still be around next season such is the volatile nature of the west London club, where not a day goes by without another player or manager being linked with a move in or out of Stamford Bridge. Drogba and Shevchenko are reported to interest AC Milan, Lampard has been linked with Barcelona, and Liverpool want Malouda, while Grant's job seems to be constantly on the line.
So if Chelsea's Russian mission proves the end of an era for the team Jose Mourinho built, Carvalho is determined that they go out on a high. "You have to be prepared because when it's like that, someone goes, someone stays someone comes. I don't know yet if I will stay but I have a contract," he said.
"Everyone has known each other here for a long time and we enjoy each other's company so we have to try to win this last game. It's important. We didn't win the Premier League so we have to get a Champions League medal."
Carvalho, who expects to be fit after a back injury, won the competition with Porto in 2004 and knows Chelsea stand on the verge of a life-changing experience. The Portugal defender has seen at first hand the plaudits and riches showered on Champions League winners, but he is determined not to let his team-mates be distracted from the task of beating United.
"In my first final, we got the result and I got the cup. It was a fantastic day," he said. "The Champions League is the best you can get as a player with a club. It is an important game for the players and the club, but we still have a week and have to be relaxed. The last few days will be more difficult, when you start to think about the game."
Making up for domestic disappointment
Missing out on the Premier League title to United on the last day of the season could easily have given Chelsea a dose of the blues. But after the turmoil that surrounded Mourinho's departure in September, Carvalho insists Chelsea should be proud of their efforts in the second half of the season.
"It was not easy for us at the beginning, but now we are in the final," he said. "To miss out on the league was difficult for us but we can't think about the last game of the season. The Premier League season was good, but we just could not recover enough points. Now we have a Champions League final to play and just have to focus on that."
If Chelsea's players need any extra motivation to return home with the trophy, Florent Malouda believes they need only cast their minds back to the League Cup final defeat to Tottenham. After winning three finals under Mourinho, Chelsea were out-thought and out-fought by Spurs at Wembley. It was a dark day for Grant in particular, who stood silent as John Terry gave a team-talk on the pitch in extra-time.
Malouda hopes Chelsea have learnt from that and expects their big-match experience to come good this time. "We already lost one final against Tottenham, so we cannot lose again, so I hope we can take the lessons from that final and learn them," Malouda said.
"It's difficult to comapre the two squads. Manchester United is a big team with great players. They are younger than Chelsea players, but Chelsea have good experience. A lot of players have a lot of experience, so I hope that can make the difference for this final."