Chelsea will be looking to secure a top-four finish when they travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season this afternoon, kick-off 4:00pm.
The Blues, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Villa in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge back in December, put themselves in the driving seat to secure a top-four berth with a crucial 2-1 win over Leicester City on Tuesday evening, courtesy of second half goals from Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho.
The win over the Foxes moved Chelsea back into third, meaning a win at Villa Park this afternoon will guarantee a third-place finish. However, should the Blues drop points they could be overtaken by Liverpool and Leicester if they both win, meaning they would miss out on a top-four finish.
But if the Blues were to get the job done with out any last minute mistakes, it would, according to head coach Thomas Tuchel, be mission accomplished, especially when you take into account that the club was in mid-table when he took charge towards the end of January.
Tuchel, speaking to the media on Friday afternoon, explained: “We would be absolutely happy to reach it [the 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 was a bit of a complicated situation to reach a final, to then go back to the top-four, to then play a semi-final in the Champions League. There were all these different competitions and all at different stages: we were almost done in the FA Cup, we were not done in the top-four race and the Champions League.
“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.”
The final day of the Premier League season is often renowned for its drama, with fans regularly being forced to check on other teams’ scorelines so they know what their own side needs to do. With Liverpool and Leicester also kicking-off at 4:00pm, will Tuchel want to know what is going on elsewhere?
“For a long period of the game, I will for sure be in a bubble,” continued the former Borussia Dortmund boss.
“If in the end if there are results that influence the amount of risk we should take, need to take, whatever, because we are not leading, or not comfortable or whatever, then we need to know. We also need to be professional.
“I prefer not to know, but if it’s necessary we need to know then we will, to adapt our risk management during the game. First of all, we approach the game like the game against Leicester. It’s in our hands, and we can decide things with a win.”
Ahead of this afternoon’s clash in the Midlands, Tuchel faces an anxious wait over the availability of midfield enforcer N’Golo Kante. The Frenchman was withdrawn in the first half against Leicester with a hamstring problem as a precaution, but it is now touch-and-go as to whether or not he will feature.
Issuing an update on the midfield star, Tuchel said: “With NG [Kante] it’s going to be very close, but still some hopes he maybe joins team training tomorrow [Saturday]. But if not, then he will join on Monday.”
Kai Havertz is also in a similar situation, with Tuchel, at the time of speaking to the media on Friday, unsure whether or not he would be available for selection, confirming a late check would be made.
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Andreas Christensen, though, is back available after missing the last three matches with a hamstring problem.
Elsewhere, the likes of Marcos Alonso, Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech will be pushing for starting berths.
Full Chelsea squad available to face Aston Villa:
Goalkeepers : Kepa Arrizabalaga, Willy Caballero & Edouard Mendy.
Defenders: Reece James, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma, Valentino Livramento, Ben Chilwell, Marcos Alonso & Emerson.
Midfielders: Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, N’Golo Kante (if passed fit), Mateo Kovacic, Billy Gilmour, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz (if passed fit), Faustino Anjorin & Jorginho.
Strikers: Tammy Abraham, Timo Werner & Olivier Giroud.