The curtain falls on the domestic campaign this Sunday. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look forward to the final round of fixtures with a top-four finish fixed…
Thursday’s dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League means Chelsea have now reached a remarkable 20 major finals since 1998, three more than the nearest top-six rival, Man United, with 17.
And so to match number 38 on the league schedule. The pressure is off with the objective of Champions League football next season already achieved. The Blues have now sealed a top-four slot in 15 of the past 20 campaigns: in five of the previous 14 we were champions, four runners-up, four third and once fourth.
Tottenham (at home to Everton) would have to record a better result than the Blues to steal third, though in any case since 2018 all teams with a top-four place are guaranteed entry to the Champions League group stage without playing a qualifying round.
After three years of closing the campaign at the Bridge, for the second year Chelsea’s top-flight season will end on an away ground. In 2018 it was on Tyneside at St James’ Park, and on Sunday we are in the East Midlands for the finale with the Foxes.
The Londoners, of course, hold the record for the biggest win in the Premier League’s final fling: 8-0 against Wigan to clinch the title exactly nine years ago to the day on Sunday.
Leicester coach Brendan Rodgers has never beaten the club where he cut his managerial teeth as youth and reserve coach in the mid-2000s, but he has urged his current players to fight to the end on Sunday. Thursday’s extended labours make this a tough assignment against fresh and in-form hosts.
Chelsea have won seven, drawn one and lost two of the matches that have closed the 10 seasons since 2008/09.
— Key stat
What else rests on the final league placings? Money, basically. All Premier League member clubs are awarded equal share of media revenue amounting to £84.4m, no matter where they finish (even relegated teams).
However, each higher position earns around £2m more the top flight’s prize money pot. So hosts Leicester, who can finish as high as eighth or low as 11th, are looking at a difference of £6m in the amount awarded.
For Chelsea there is a knock-on effect in 2018/19 Champions League income. By finishing third in 2017/18 Tottenham will have earned around £6.6m from this season’s UEFA TV Pool, whereas for Liverpool, who were fourth, the sum is likely to be £3m less at £3.3m.
These amounts might be dwarfed by income from other streams, but are not to be sniffed at. Not many of us are in a position to make a difference of several million pounds to our company’s coffers with the mere swing of a boot or pat of a glove.
Europa League catch-up
The Europa League final at the Olympic Stadium, Baku, on Wednesday 29 May, will be Chelsea’s first Europe encounter with Arsenal since the 2004 Champions League quarter-finals.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s cultured finish against Eintracht Frankfurt made it 10 goals for the season in all competitions for the midfielder, who has trained with the club since the age of eight.
He is the first Academy graduate to achieve double figures in goals for the senior team since Graham Stuart in the 1992/93 season. One unforgettable goal by ‘Bobby’ that season came from an Eden Hazard-esque 70-yard run from his own half at Sheffield Wednesday.
Staying with the Belgian maestro, his opener at home to West Ham was named Premier League Goal of the Month for April. Commentator Martin Tyler described that sublime slalom and slam home as ‘astonishing… absolutely amazing – but typical of the man.’
After setting up two of the Blues’ three goals against Watford, Hazard has 16 goals and 15 assists to his name this season, making him the first Chelsea player involved in 30 goals in a top-flight campaign since Didier Drogba (39) and Frank Lampard (36), both in 2009/10.
Premier League goals
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) 22
Sergio Aguero (Man City) 20
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) 20
Sadio Mane (Liverpool) 20
Jamie Vardy (Leicester) 18
Harry Kane (Tottenham) 17
Raheem Sterling (Man City) 17
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 16
Premier League assists
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 15
Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth) 14
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) 12
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) 11
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) 11
Leroy Sane (Man City) 10
Raheem Sterling (Man City) 10
Last weekend brought another clean sheet for Kepa Arrizabalaga in his first Premier League season, preserved by an acrobatic leap to push away Troy Deeney’s header. Arsenal’s former Blue Petr Cech, photographed watching the Chelsea-Eintracht denouement on a smartphone, must have admired his successor’s shrewd and decisive penalty shoot-out saves.
And while 20 other goalkeepers (including Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel) have made errors that led directly to conceding Premier League goals, the 24-year-old Spaniard, like Man City’s Ederson, has been fault-free. (For the record, Bernd Leno 5, David De Gea 4, Alisson 3 and Hugo Lloris 1 are the top-six club’s goalies in that list.)
Premier League clean sheets
Alisson (Liverpool) 20
Ederson (Man City) 20
Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea) 14
Jordan Pickford (Everton) 14
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) 12
On Wednesday Chelsea are in Massachusetts, USA, for the ‘Final Whistle On Hate’ charity match aimed at raising awareness of antisemitism and other discrimination issues. It is hosted by New England Revolution at their Gillette Stadium, which the Blues last visited in July 2005. Click for tickets
Just when many despairing Blues supporters (along with Gooners, Mancunians and Evertonians) were planning holidays around 1 June to escape the hullabaloo surrounding some match or other taking place in Madrid, Chelsea reached our second final of the season, the sixth in Europe overall. It is an all-London affair, too, with Cech’s Arsenal the opponents.
Never before has a national association managed a clean sweep of participants in these two UEFA finals, though Italy provided four of the six teams who contested the European Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Cup finals in 1989/90.
The situation also means the UEFA Super Cup match between the winners of the Europa League and Champions League at Besiktas’s Vodafone Park, Istanbul, on Wednesday 14 August 2019 will be between domestic rivals and might pass for the Community Shield’s more glamorous sibling.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
No further injuries. Please.
Premier League fixtures
All Sunday 3pm
Brighton v Manchester City - Sky Sports
Burnley v Arsenal
Crystal Palace v Bournemouth
Fulham v Newcastle
Leicester v Chelsea
Liverpool v Wolves - Sky Sports
Manchester United v Cardiff
Southampton v Huddersfield
Tottenham v Everton
Watford v West Ham