As Thomas Tuchel and his Chelsea side prepare for the finale of the Premier League season, they find themselves in a three-way fight with Leicester City and Liverpool for the last two Champions League slots.
Whilst Chelsea were inexplicably beaten at home 5-2 to now relegated West Bromwich Albion and also lost 1-0 to a poor Arsenal side, they will go into their game against Aston Villa knowing that two points from those two defeats would have almost certainly assured them of a seat at Europe’s top table next season.
Lying third in the league table above Liverpool – who are in fourth and Leicester who are in fifth – they travel to Villa Park knowing that they must equal or, better still, improve on the result that Leicester City get to ensure their name goes into the draw for next season’s Champions league.
Chelsea have 67 points whilst both Liverpool and Leicester each have 66. However, although Chelsea have a superior goal difference to that of Leicester, it is inferior when compared to Liverpool’s.
Whilst The Foxes entertain Sp*rs and Liverpool play host to Crystal Palace, it is Chelsea who look to have the trickiest of the three fixtures against a Villa side who have, in recent weeks, found themselves in good form.
Chelsea’s midweek victory at home to FA Cup winners Leicester may well have alleviated some of the concern that they might not make a top-four slot, there is still a certain reticence that they were unable to defeat both the King Power side and VAR in last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Wembley.
Indeed, whilst Tuchel has spoken extremely well since being appointed as Chelsea manager, I am of the opinion that he got it wrong when he downplayed the importance of winning the FA Cup and proceeded to put the importance of a top four place against it.
Although it might well make financial sense for the club, the players themselves will rue missing the chance of getting their hands on a winner’s medal.
Indeed, for several of them, it was two defeats in the final in consecutive years whilst for others, it was the third time they’ve faced an FA Cup Final defeat in five years.
For the supporters, it was a dreadful day that was made worse when the VAR decision to disallow what would have been Chelsea’s last gasp equalizer was shown to have been the wrong call.
Whilst many were hoping for a repeat of the 2012 season when Chelsea won both the FA and European Cups, this term it seems imperative that a top-four finish is achieved as finishing fifth and qualifying for next season’s Champions League by way of winning the trophy is not written in stone.
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