Chelsea vs Crystal Palace: Thomas Tuchel’s side must prioritize FA Cup as they near end of tumultuous season | Soccer News

Chelsea’s agonizing exit from the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid on Tuesday came with the feeling that an era was ending. Not only was their reign as European champions over, but it was also likely to be Chelsea’s last game in the competition under the ownership of Roman Abramovich.

But putting aside the pain of being kicked out of Europe – as well as the worries about the club’s future as one of the continent’s most successful sides generated by Abramovich’s impending exit – total defeat against Real also left Chelsea with only one realistic route. to silverware this season.

The points gap with Premier League title chasers Manchester City and Liverpool is in double digits with just eight games to go, meaning FA Cup success is surely the only way for Thomas’ side Tuchel to add to the European Super Cup and Club World Cup. they won earlier this season.

Of Chelsea’s three potential semi-final opponents in the draw, Crystal Palace were likely the pick of the bunch, but victory at Wembley is far from certain given the Eagles’ resurgence under Patrick Vieira. And even if Chelsea are able to negotiate their way to a third successive FA Cup final, they would almost certainly come into the game as underdogs against Liverpool.

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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel says he can understand Conor Gallagher’s disappointment at missing the FA Cup semi-final this weekend against his parent club

Nonetheless, lifting the cup and ensuring they don’t end the season without a domestic trophy for the fourth consecutive season must now be a priority. But would that be enough to guarantee the campaign’s success?

Chelsea team news

Romelu Lukaku will get the chance to prove his fitness in Chelsea training ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace.

The Belgian hitman is suffering from Achilles tendon pain but has the chance to return against the Eagles at Wembley.

Callum Hudson-Odoi remains out of action with a back problem, with Ben Chilwell a long-term absentee after knee surgery.

Chelsea provisional squad: Mendy, Kepa, Chalobah, Christensen, Rudiger, Silva, Sarr, Azpilicueta, Alonso, James, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek, Saul, Ziyech, Pulisic, Mount, Havertz, Werner, Lukaku.

Man City and Liverpool still out of reach

Their status as European champions, the promise of a full first season under Tuchel and the return of club-record signing Romelu Lukaku meant Chelsea entered the campaign with genuine hope of launching their first title challenge. since winning the league under Antonio Conte in 2017.

The momentum was generated by the Super Cup win over Villarreal, and some impressive early Premier League wins propelled them top of the table after 10 matches.

Cesar Azpilicueta lifts the 2021 Super Cup ahead of his Chelsea teammates
Cesar Azpilicueta lifts the 2021 Super Cup ahead of his Chelsea teammates

But any expectation of glory was thrown into doubt by disappointing home draws against Burnley’s Manchester United and Michael Carrick, before a run of just two league wins from nine matches crushed the Blues’ title ambitions at midday. -january. Seeing Manchester City and Liverpool run away with four months of the season still to play can only be seen as a disappointment.

Chelsea can say the progress is still noticeable given they finished last season 19 points behind champions Man City, while the current gap is now down to 12 points. Tuchel’s side can also point to the fact that they hold what should be a comfortable lead over Tottenham, Arsenal and Man Utd and third place is theirs to lose, despite having only secured a top four on the last day of last season. But it should not be hidden that, over a long league campaign, Chelsea are always one level below Man City and Liverpool.

As for Lukaku, his failure to make the desired impact means Chelsea are likely to end the season without a player reaching 20 goals in all competitions for the fourth season in a row. The striker’s controversial interview with Sky in Italy Just months after his return to Stamford Bridge, in which he expressed a desire to one day return to Inter Milan and questioned Tuchel’s tactics, did not help his cause. The Belgian now finds himself in the starting XI and the difficulties of such an exciting signing have put a damper on Chelsea’s season.

Lukaku and Kai Havertz on their debut as No.9 for Chelsea in the Premier League this season
Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz on their debut as No.9 for Chelsea in the Premier League this season

Chelsea’s Champions League campaign was in many ways similar to their Premier League efforts – a 4-0 thrashing of Juventus in the group stage suggested a deep run in the competition was possible, as they arrived within 10 minutes of producing one of the tournaments. all-time great comebacks at the Bernabeu.

But ultimately Chelsea were knocked out by a side they comfortably contested in the semi-finals last season, largely thanks to a host of missed chances and some unusual defensive errors – all while Man City and Liverpool remain on track to meet in the final.

So far this season, the Blues have come close to winning the national silverware in the Carabao Cup, where they came out on the wrong end of a penalty shootout against Liverpool. While there was almost nothing to separate the teams on the day, it was Chelsea’s fifth cup defeat in the past four seasons – a curious statistic for a club that used to climb on the greatest occasions.

To their credit, it’s a habit they were able to show in the Super Cup win – their first for 23 years – and their Club World Cup-winning campaign in February, which saw them lift the trophy. for the first time in the club’s history and could well guarantee that, as long as Chelsea finish in the top four, this season will not be a failure.

Left to right, Chelsea's Saul Niguez, Marcos Alonso, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Cesar Azpilicueta celebrate with their winner's medals after the FIFA Club World Cup final match at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates . Picture date: Saturday February 12, 2022.
Chelsea’s Saul Niguez, Marcos Alonso, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Azpilicueta celebrate with their winners’ medals after the Club World Cup final

Crystal Palace Team News

Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira will be without eight-goal hitman Conor Gallagher, who is ineligible to face his parent club and had a written request to Chelsea rejected last week.

The Eagles manager is also due to check the fitness of Tyrick Mitchell (calf) and Michael Olise (foot), who have only been in a few practices this week.

Full-back Nathan Ferguson (hamstring) stays out while Vieira will have to choose between Cup keeper Jack Butland and first-choice Vicente Guaita.

Crystal Palace provisional squad: Guaita, Clyne, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell, Olise, Kouyate, Schlupp, Ayew, Mateta, Zaha, Butland, Ward, Tomkins, Hughes, Milivojevic, McArthur, Eze, Edouard, Benteke, Matthews, Adaramola, Kelly, Riedewald, Rak- Sakyi.

‘Figurehead’ Tuchel leads Chelsea through ownership drama

But perhaps Tuchel’s biggest achievement this season has been keeping the team on track throughout the turbulent past few months. Abramovich’s announcement that he planned to sell the club sent shockwaves, given he had funded their success for nearly two decades, while the government’s decision to freeze the Russian billionaire’s assets – including Chelsea – sparked fears for their future.

Chelsea also remain unable to renew contracts, which leaves Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen as impending free agents and means a host of other negotiations – including with N’Golo Kante and Jorginho – could not progress.

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace: Thomas Tuchel's side must prioritize FA Cup as they near end of tumultuous season | Soccer News

He’s a brilliant manager, but the way he’s performed over the past two weeks has really shown what kind of guy he is. He was Chelsea’s figurehead and he did very well. He was a real leader for this club.

Jamie Carragher on Thomas Tuchel last month

All of this could have caused huge unease within the team, but Tuchel managed to keep the team together, as shown by his record of eight wins in 11 matches since Abramovich first declared his intention to to sell.

Tuchel’s impressive displays to the media at a time when very few other members of the club were willing or able to address the current issues also drew praise, with Jamie Carragher recounting sky sports last month: “He’s a brilliant manager, but the way he’s performed over the past two weeks has really shown what kind of guy he is. He’s been Chelsea’s figurehead and he’s is very well presented. He’s been a real leader for this club.”

Chelsea’s performance in the cup final since 2016/17

2016/17 FA Cup (lost 2-1 to Arsenal)
2017/18 FA Cup (1-0 win against Man Utd)
2018/19 Carabao Cup (0-0 v Man City, lost at pens); Europa League (4-1 win against Arsenal)
2019/20 FA Cup (lost 2-1 to Arsenal); Super Cup (2-2 against Liverpool, lost to pens)
2020/21 FA Cup (lost 1-0 to Leicester); Champions League (1-0 win against Man City)
2021/22 Carabao Cup (0-0 against Liverpool, lost to pens); Super Cup (1-1 against Villarreal, won with pens); Club World Cup (2-1 win against Palmeiras)

Immediate concerns over Chelsea’s future have been eased by the prospect of new owners – the deadline for final offers from the four shortlisted candidates was Thursday – and it is hoped a takeover could be completed before the end of the season. season.

And what better way for Chelsea to end the campaign than with a third successive FA Cup final appearance, perhaps even with the new owners at Wembley? But first the Blues need to leave Palace, and Tuchel believes the opportunity to do so presents the perfect opportunity to bounce back from their Champions League disappointment.

“It’s a big knockout game at Wembley which I think is a good thing because there’s a huge reward to go with it,” he said on Friday.

If Chelsea are able to claim this award, they will give themselves one last chance to topple Liverpool and ensure a dramatic, and at times disappointing, season ends on the highest of peaks.

Follow Chelsea vs Crystal Palace on Sky Sports’ live match blog on Sunday, with kick-off at 4.30pm.

Sky Sports

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