Chelsea are just one game away from being crowned the Kings of Europe for a second time – they just have the small matter of Manchester City in their way.
Two of England’s elite lock horns in Porto on Saturday evening in front of 16,500 spectators to battle for European supremacy. For Chelsea, it could be their second trophy lift, the first arriving nine years ago in 2012. For City, this could be a historic first Champions League title.
For Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola, so much is at stake. The City boss has yet to win the Champions League without Lionel Messi in his side, while Tuchel has a score to settle having been a beaten finalist this time last year with PSG as they lost out to Bayern Munich in Lisbon.
At the start of the season, each team and their fans have a dream. It could be survival in the Premier League, a good cup run, finishing in the European spots or winning a trophy of some sort.
That was no different for Chelsea after Frank Lampard had taken them to fourth in the 2019/20 campaign, defying a transfer ban and the three-month coronavirus lockdown stoppage that curtailed the season between March and June of last year.
Lampard had strengthened the side once his embargo was lifted, bringing in Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva to plot a route to glory in the competition for the first time since 2012.
Lampard laid down the foundations before his run of five defeats in eight games cost him his job in late January but it has been Tuchel that has steered and navigated Chelsea through the knockout stages of the competition to reach the final against another Premier League side, Man City, in Portugal this weekend.
A first win since 2012 in the final could be on the horizon for Chelsea while for City, their first ever Champions League success could be the reward for a victory in Porto, moved from Istanbul earlier this month owing to coronavirus travel restrictions.
So, how did Chelsea get to this point, with another potentially historical night in the competition on the cards.
Chelsea opened up their Champions League campaign in Group E as they were joined by Sevilla, Rennes and Russian outfit Krasnodar.
The European jaunt got off to a flat start with a 0-0 draw at home to Sevilla on October 20 but eight days later, Lampard’s side thumped Krasnodar 4-0 away from home.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic were all on the scoresheet in Russia as Lampard’s side cruised to victory.
Rennes were the next visitors to Stamford Bridge as new recruit Edouard Mendy came up against his former employers and he kept a shutout in a 3-0 win.
Timo Werner netted twice from the penalty spot while Tammy Abraham scored the other as Rennes played the final hour of the game with ten men following Dalbert’s sending off five minutes before the break.
Later in the month was the return leg and it was another win for the Blues as they returned from France with a 2-1 victory, a result that sealed their place in the last 16 of the competition.
Hudson-Odoi had put Chelsea ahead in the first half but five minutes from time it was cancelled out by Serhou Guirassy’s goal. Olivier Giroud popped up in the first minute of added time at the end of the 90 to secure the win.
Giroud was at it again at the start of December as he netted all four of the Blues goals in a rout over Sevilla in the Spanish city on what was a red letter day for the veteran French frontman.
Six days later, despite Lampard’s struggles domestically, he secured an unbeaten group stage campaign in the Champions League as Chelsea drew 1-1 with Krasnodar at Stamford Bridge as Jorginho’s penalty secured a point four minutes after Remy Cabella opened the scoring.
The knockout stages arrived for the Blues and they were without Frank Lampard, who had been axed by the club three weeks earlier and Tuchel placed in charge.
Chelsea had yet to lose by the time their last 16 tie with Atletico Madrid, the toughest draw the Blues could have gotten, took place. The first leg was played in Bucharest and it was another win for Chelsea, and another goal for Giroud as his acrobatic winner in the 68th minute separated the two sides.
The return leg didn’t take place for three weeks when Atletico pitched up in west London in desperate need of at least a goal to take the tie into extra time.
But, much like in Bucharest after Covid restrictions didn’t allow for home advantage for Diego Simeone’s side, they couldn’t break down the Blues.
Hakim Ziyech scored a crucial goal in the 34th minute to put the Blues 2-0 up in the tie and as Atleti bombed forward in hope rather than expectation, they were picked off as Emerson netted a rare, rare goal four minutes into stoppage time and Chelsea were through 3-0 on aggregate and set up a quarter final tie with Porto.
The scene of Chelsea’s 4-0 triumph earlier in the campaign, Seville, would be the destination for the Blues’ two quarter final ties with Porto, once again owing to covid travel restrictions.
A tenacious Porto found Chelsea, like many since Tuchel arrived, tough to break down. The Blues took advantage in the first leg, securing a 2-0 win at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan thanks to goals from Mason Mount and a crucial second goal from Ben Chilwell that gave Sergio Conceicao’s side a mountain to climb.
It was one they couldn’t ascend despite beating the Blues in the second leg 1-0 to inflict Chelsea’s first loss in this season’s competition, Mehdi Taremi scoring a super bicycle kick to win the game in injury time but Tuchel’s side went through 2-1 on aggregate.
The semi final scene was then set for Real Madrid, so often who save their best for Europe, with the first leg held on April 27.
The unusual surroundings of Madrid’s training ground in Valdebebas was the venue with the Santiago Bernabeu currently undergoing renovation works.
A rain-lashed 90 minutes saw Chelsea once again emerge with the advantage, but only a slight one this time. Christian Pulisic’s fine solo gaol gave the visitors a crucial away goal before it was cancelled out by Karim Benzema’s emphatic turn and finish and the tie was locked at 1-1 going back to London.
Chelsea were back at their home for the second leg unlike the previous round, and delivered a scoreline that had been a similar theme throughout the knockout stages – a 2-0 win for the third time.
Timo Werner couldn’t miss from a couple of yards out to open the scoring after Kai Havertz had hit the bar and much like their city rivals, Real were forced to take the game to Chelsea.
They were taken apart on the counter attack throughout the game and after missing a hatful of chances, the home side finally bagged a second goal of the night when Mason Mount finished off another flowing move to put the Blues into the final.