It was only in the dying stages of yesterday’s game at Villa Park that Chelsea’s players and staff could finally relax.
The Blues had produced a poor display against Aston Villa, one in which the profligacy of Thomas Tuchel‘s side was once again highlighted. Chance after chance had been missed and heading into stoppage time Chelsea trailed 2-1.
That is how the match ended and had results elsewhere gone against the Blues, it would’ve meant they finished outside of the Premier League top four. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Chelsea were done the biggest of favours by, of all clubs, Tottenham Hotspur. Victory for Spurs at Leicester City ensured the Blues would finish in the top four regardless of the fact they were succumbing to their third loss in four games in all competitions.
“We are lucky that Tottenham did the job and finished the job for us today,” Tuchel admitted after the game. “Like I said, we came to win and to put any doubts to the side but it was not possible.
“We were in the position that it was possible to end in the top four even with a defeat. 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 [the Champions League final] as we want a positive outcome.”
As Chelsea’s players walked around the Villa Park pitch after the game, congratulating their opponents, there was a sense of relief.
There was also anger from Tuchel, who remonstrated with referee Stuart Attwell after several big decisions went against his side.
But the Chelsea head coach and his players can go into next weekend’s final against Man City in Porto knowing that European football has been secured for next season. It will not be a case of all or nothing for the Blues.
After the final whistle at Villa Park, former Blue Bertrand Traore, who scored the opening goal of the game, engaged in conversation with members of the Chelsea coaching and medical team, several of whom he worked with during his four years at Stamford Bridge.
Meanwhile, several members of Tuchel’s first-team squad received fist bumps and were wished well by Chelsea legend John Terry, who is on Dean Smith’s coaching staff.
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Terry also gave former Blues teammate Kurt Zouma a huge hug and they walked down the touchline back to the dressing room together with the Frenchman’s arm draped over the former Chelsea captain. It was a touching moment.
And away from the eyes of the public, Thiago Silva, who embraced Terry before kick-off, handed his match-worn shirt to the former defender.
“What a player this man is,” Terry wrote on Instagram with an image of the shirt. “Great to see you mate. Legend.”