The Blues had a nervy last day of the season but Thomas Tuchel completed a mission that took the club from tenth to four place in the league
Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League on the final day of the Premier League season after Leicester lost 4-2 in their final game against Tottenham.
A Kasper Schmeichel’s own goal and two late Gareth Bale strikes at the King Power stadium allowed Chelsea to squeeze into the lucrative competition despite their 2-1 away loss at Aston Villa in the 38th matchday.
As a result, the Blues will not be relying on their upcoming Champions League final clash with Manchester City to secure next year’s spot as their league performance was just enough to finish top four.
The Blues went 2-0 down at Villa Park after both Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi scored, with Ben Chilwell’s 70th-minute strike not enough to avoid defeat.
Thomas Tuchel’s side spent much of the 90 minutes outside the top four in the live table and pushed to secure at least a draw by bringing both Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech on from the bench.
Making matters slightly worse, Cesar Azpilicueta got a late red card for slapping Jack Grealish in the face, which signified the emotions on show in the Midlands.
However, even after a host of missed chances, they couldn’t find an equaliser and needed help from their London rivals to get over the line in the league.
How did Chelsea get here?
Albeit in nervy fashion, it completes an impressive climb up the table since January where Thomas Tuchel’s side have gone from tenth to fourth place to achieve their primary mid-season aim.
Tuchel had been charged with securing the club revenues through a Champions League finish when there were doubts about qualification for any European competition next season.
Indeed, the west London club would earn as much as £112 million ($160m) in revenue from accumulated revenue should they beat Manchester City in the upcoming Champions League final on 29 May.
In securing a top-four finish, they get another shot at earning those revenues next season, with a certain windfall guaranteed for reaching the group stage of the competition.
With Liverpool having won 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace on the final day, Jurgen Klopp’s side leapfrogged Chelsea into third. Yet, Chelsea secured fourth with Leicester to play in the Europa League again next season.
West Ham secured the other Europa League spot, while Spurs’ win got them a spot in the inaugural UEFA Conference League even after Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Brighton.
What Tuchel said
“We are lucky that Tottenham did the job for us and finished the job for us today. Like I said, we came to win and to put any doubts to the side but it was not possible,” Tuchel said.
“We are in the position, we are in it, that it was possible to end in the top four even with a defeat and that was possible because of the team’s hard work and consistently good results.
“We need to adjust details and we need to be spot on on Saturday as we want a positive outcome. I knew it maybe three or four minutes before our game was over because the game at Leiceter was over a bit earlier, so we knew about the result and that it was clear we were through.
“It was our main target but clearly, we did not play or prepare for the occasion today. We prepared for the match and the target was to win the match and I think that, again, we are absolutely able to win this match.
“It is normally so, so hard to create chances and to score against Aston Villa but we created a lot, many deliveries. They are still a young tema dn we try to evolve and to make them better, learn from every game but it has been our story throughout the season.
“We needed many clean sheets to overcome this lack of composure and precision, today we conceded two goals from set pieces and it was hard to come back but we had enough chances to turn it around.”
A look ahead
Not only are the financial rewards important for the Blues, but their presence in the prestigious competition may give them a boost in attracting their top transfer targets.
Tuchel wants a new marquee striker signing with Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Internazionale’s Romelu Lukaku on their shortlist.
Chelsea are thought to want quality over quantity in the transfer market with a possible centre-back signing being considered too. It depends on the contract situations of several players but Bayern Munich’s Niklas Sule is amongst the names being considered.