Tuchel tantalisingly close to achieving Chelsea's Mission: Impossible

Thomas Tuchel Jorginho Antonio Rudiger ChelseaGetty/Goal

Despite a dodgy run of results, Chelsea are back on track to qualify for the Champions League after beating Leicester City 2-1 in a crucial Premier League top-four showdown at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.

After defeats against Arsenal in the league and Leicester in the FA Cup final, Blues coach Thomas Tuchel has got the team going again and can now boast of taking the side from 10th when he took over at the end of January to third with just one league game left before the Champions League final looms into focus.

Antonio Rudiger and a penalty from Jorginho meant Chelsea could be positive heading into the final game of the season, away at Aston Villa, but Tuchel’s side were made to squirm when Kelechi Iheanacho scored ahead of a bad-tempered finish.

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Meanwhile, an injury scare to key midfielder N'Golo Kante which saw him withdrawn early proved to be merely precautionary. 

The defeat could prove to be fatally damaging for Leicester, who along with Liverpool are the other contenders for the Champions League qualification slots.

Before kick-off, the seeming invincibility given to Chelsea by Tuchel in the past few months had worn off. There were those back-to-back defeats and this game, according to Tuchel, was even more important than the one on Saturday at Wembley when a trophy was on the line.

As Chelsea are well aware, with their place in this season’s European showpiece secured where they will play Manchester City, teams who go all the way in the Champions League can earn up to £112 million ($158m) as a reward for their progress.

Rescuing the season, therefore, and returning the club to the top table was the one overriding priority for Tuchel when he was appointed in place of club legend Frank Lampard. That might have felt overambitious at the time but 18 wins, six draws and just four losses overall have put Chelsea in control.

Jorginho Antonio Rudiger Chelsea Leicester Premier League 2020-21 GFXGetty/Goal

And control has been the key word on the pitch too with the side suffocating the opposition, giving nothing away and hoarding possession against most teams they play. Alongside tactical tweaks has come man-management.

The Blues have quality in abundance, but lack superstars, and present a united group. Several players have come in from the fringes to earn bigger roles with Tuesday’s scorers Rudiger and Jorginho struggling under previous manager Lampard.

Others, like Mason Mount, continue to earn prominent roles like they had under Tuchel’s predecessor. After earning Chelsea's Player of the Season award, Mount summed up his side's desire to win in front of the 8,000 supporters who returned to the stadium after a change in the UK’s Covid-19 protocols.

"To see them back at the Bridge, you can hear them, it gives us that extra motivation," he said at pitchside. "Thanks to them. We do this for them. We want to achieve greatness so we are going to keep working hard."

Soul, quality of work and leadership have tied together this expensively-assembled group of players and it yielded two shots at glory. They lost the first but have a more important meeting to come against Pep Guardiola’s City in 10 days’ time.

It goes without saying that the winners of Europe's elite competition would qualify for next season's competition, but the Blues would rather have it wrapped up before May 29.

Chelsea are close to achieving a glorious season from the ashes of despair and, for that, they have Tuchel to thank.

Who will win the Premier League title this season?

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Who will win the Premier League title this season?

  • 48%Manchester City
  • 16%Arsenal
  • 13%Manchester United
  • 13%Liverpool
  • 5%Chelsea
  • 6%Other
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