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Chelsea FC must mend bridges after European Super League debacle turns Champions League battle into a sideshow

James Robson
·3 min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

On a night when Chelsea began proceedings to break away from the breakaway Super League, their hopes of returning to the top table of European football next season took a blow.

Yes they moved back up to fourth in the Premier League – but a goalless draw at home to Brighton saw them fail to put significant distance between themselves and the chasing pack.

They are ahead of West Ham on goal difference alone ahead of the clash between the two at the London Stadium on Saturday, and just two clear of dethroned champions Liverpool, who could be the big winners when Thomas Tuchel and David Moyes go head-to-head.

Most disappointing for Tuchel will be the fact that this was an opportunity to take advantage of slip-ups from their closest rivals over the weekend – West Ham having lost to Newcastle and Liverpool drawing with Leeds.

Instead it promises to be a nerve-jangling end to the season, leaving Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions hanging in the balance.

But if they were a little distracted on the night, it would be understandable.

PA Wire
PA Wire

This match felt very much like a non-event.

Thoughts building up to it and during it were firmly fixed on the European Super League, which was left in tatters by the time the teams entered the pitch for the delayed kick off.

Chelsea fans had congregated en masse outside Stamford Bridge to protest against the controversial breakaway competition.

The arrival of the team buses had been delayed.

Chelsea director Petr Cech was forced to walk into the stadium and was confronted by furious fans.

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

But chants of ‘We want our Chelsea back’ quickly turned into ‘We’ve got our Chelsea back’ as news filtered through of the club’s plans to abandon their involvement in the widely-condemned Super League.

Then came news of Manchester City’s decision to do likewise – and the Premier League leaders even managed to confirm their plans before Chelsea’s stance was made official.

With the ‘Dirty Dozen’s’ power play crumbling all around them, Manchester United chief Ed Woodward became the biggest casualty of the fallout.

While the club insisted his departure – at the end of the year – was in no way related to the Super League, it is impossible to ignore the link or the timing.

This is Woodward’s second failed attempt to be at the centre of reforming the game following the disastrous plans for Project Big Picture last year. He departs United with the club humiliated along with the rest of the 12 founding members of the Super League.

Chelsea’s involvement will not soon be forgotten.

It is understood the fans who gathered outside were there to vent fury over more than just the proposed new competition.

They also wanted the chance to let their feelings be known following the sacking of Frank Lampard in January.

There are bridges to be rebuilt.

PA Wire
PA Wire

Tuchel is doing all he can to bring smiles back to faces with events on the pitch.

An FA Cup final in the bag and a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid represents a spectacular start to his reign.

But top four was a minimum requirement. And it was the fear that Lampard would not be able to secure it that convinced Roman Abramovich to show him the door.

Tuchel’s grip on fourth place is precarious after two dropped points at home.

West Ham is now massive.

Having been prepared to sack the Champions League off 48 hours ago, Chelsea are now fighting tooth and nail just to get back into it.

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