For the third time in four years, Chelsea are embroiled in a top-four race heading into the final matchday of the Premier League season. Only two of Chelsea, Liverpool, and Leicester City can qualify for next season's Champions League, with Chelsea leading the other two by just one point right now, but the only one of the three playing away.
The Blues take on Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon, with Villa having nothing tangible to fight for, placed safely and comfortably in 11th. However, this won’t make it a cakewalk, as Villa look to bid farewell to a season in front of their own returning home crowd.
There is some good news regarding injuries for the team, ahead of not only this game but next weekend’s Champions League final, with N’Golo Kanté the only big question mark remaining. Both Andreas Christensen and Kai Havertz are okay to play this weekend, while hopefully we take it safely with NG.
“Andreas Christensen will be in the squad, he did full training today and also yesterday without any problems. So he will be back. Kai Havertz did a test today and will be testing in team training tomorrow.
“And with NG it’s going to be very close, but still some hopes he maybe joins team training tomorrow. But if not, then he will join on Monday.”
While achieving a top-four finish doesn’t get us a trophy, the finances and prestige involved in Champions League participation makes it a most valuable achievement — not just for Chelsea but for any Premier League club. As Tuchel made it quite clear recently, that’s always been his remit from the club, the minimum requirement for a successful season.
And it’s not been easy, despite our expectations. Tuchel was appointed with Chelsea in ninth, and he’s led the team not only to the verge of a third-place finish, but also to the finals of both knockout competitions in which we were involved, including the Champions League itself. Winning that final would also lead us back to Europe, but there’s already enough pressure on that game even without that. Winning on Sunday ensures that the squad approaches the Champions League final without the extra pressure.
"We would be absolutely happy to reach [top-four]. It was our main target, the focus for all of us. Having a busy schedule, making an FA Cup final, even the Champions League made it even harder because we had so many games, first of all, to cope with and a tight schedule. [...] It demanded a lot of different levels of concentration and focus from all of us.
“So this is what we wished for, what we worked hard for. It’s still in our hands and we are full of respect for our opponents. We know how hard it is to play at Aston Villa and to beat this strong Aston Villa side. But we are determined to do it.”
“Of course, it [would take] some pressure off. [We don’t want to] play this final to make it to the Champions League next season. We will play this final 100% no matter what to win the cup, this is it.
“The side effect, of course, is a crucial one but we don’t want to play this final to arrive in the top four. We put so much hard work, quality and we have been very consistent in terms of results in the last months that we want to finish the job.
“We don’t know what to expect in detail because anything can happen in football and this is what everybody loves about this game is that three teams have a chance to fight for two places. The race is on.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Chelsea's top four destiny lies in our own hands. It's time to seal the deal!