Didier Drogba believes Chelsea’s indifferent start to the 2017-18 campaign is down to the club’s involvement in the Champions League.

Missing out on the competition last term, Chelsea won 30 of their 38 league games to win the Premier League title by seven points in Antonio Conte’s first season in England.

The Blues have won their last three fixtures – including a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge before the international break – but already find themselves nine points adrift of leaders Man City.

And Drogba, who won four titles and the Champions League at Chelsea, believes competing in Europe has affected the club’s form in the top-flight. ‘What’s happening now is normal,’ Drogba told French radio station RMC. ‘Two years ago, they were on the brink of relegation.

‘Last year, with one match a week, everything went well. The coach came in with drastic methods and the club became champions again. ‘But most of the players have never been further than a Champions League quarter-final or semi-final for a while.

‘You have to get used to matches every three days again, get used to the demand for results, which is permanent, to the intensity.

Chelsea 2017/18 Fixtures

West Brom (A) – Sat 18 Nov

FK Qarabag (A) – Wed Nov 22 (Champions League)

Liverpool (A) – Sat 25 Nov

Swansea (H) – Wed 29 Nov

Newcastle (H) – Sat 2 Dec

Atletico Madrid (H) – Tue 5 Dec (Champions League)

West Ham (A) – Sat 9 Dec

Huddersfield Town (A) – Tues Dec 12

Southampton (H) – Sat Dec 16

Bournemouth (H) – Wed Dec 20 (EFL Cup)

Everton (A) – Sat Dec 23

Brighton (H) – Tues Dec 26

Stoke City (H) – Sat Dec 30