Chelsea manager Frank Lampard warned his side will have to make huge strides to challenge Liverpool for the Premier League title next year, despite already making big moves in the transfer market.
Lampard’s men travel to the champions on Wednesday hoping to get the win they need to guarantee Champions League football next season.
Liverpool’s form has tailed off since clinching a first title in 30 years last month, but Jurgen Klopp’s men remain 30 points ahead of Chelsea.
“A long way,” said Lampard when asked how far off his side from the consistent standards of Liverpool and Manchester City.
“We have to be realistic about that as a club, as do many of the other clubs, because themselves and Manchester City, particularly Liverpool this year, have shown an incredible consistency that only comes through hard work and time with fantastic players and fantastic coaching.
“We are at a different point in the curve. You are talking about probably the two best club teams in world football, up there with a couple of others in European football.
“The points don’t lie over the past few seasons. We are realistic but we have targets and we want to close that gap.”
Chelsea have already beaten Liverpool to the signing of German international forward Timo Werner and recruited Hakim Ziyech from Ajax.
The Blues are also reportedly leading the chase for Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz, who is valued at 90 million euros ($103 million, £82 million) by the Bundesliga club.
Any further business this summer will largely depend on Chelsea securing a return to the Champions League.
Lampard’s men hold a one-point lead over Leicester and Manchester United, who face each other on the final day of the season.
And the former England international admitted a top-four finish was his primary target for his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge.
“We have to say it was the No 1 goal at the start of the season because it is the competition that is in front of you,” added Lampard.
“It’s a gauge of where you are as a club. We’ve done it a lot over the past 10-15 years at Chelsea. This year was probably the most testing time to be in there, so if we are I’ll be happy.”