LONDON – The most tumultuous season in Chelsea’s modern history could end like so many before this one: with another trophy.
Chelsea will return to Wembley on May 14 for the FA Cup final against Liverpool after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 in the second semi-final on Sunday thanks to goals from substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount. They may even have a new owner by then.
New York-based merchant bank Raine Group is expected to select the preferred bidder from a shortlist of four over the next few days. Once the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has approved the party chosen, the Premier League will complete the necessary property tests – chief executive Richard Masters said the fastest previous completion was 10 days, “but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.” record can be beaten.”
It is therefore conceivable that Chelsea’s first silver cutlery could come at the earliest possible date in the post-Roman Abramovich era, the culmination of a highly uncertain two-and-a-half month period that began with Chelsea’s last visit to Wembley. February’s Carabao Cup final loss to (coincidentally) Liverpool.
The mere fact that they have this opportunity is a testament to the work manager Thomas Tuchel has done to steer a season in which Sunday’s win was Chelsea’s 54th game in all competitions. In contrast, Crystal Palace have now only played 37.
Expectations are noticeably lower at Palace – this was only their second FA Cup semi-final since 1995 – and Tuchel has a squad of much greater depth as a result. But Chelsea have had an unprecedented time to negotiate since Abramovich hinted his ownership could develop before UK government sanctions limit the club’s ability to operate as usual. Travel plans were thrown into chaos, contract talks frozen, the club shop closed.
Abramovich’s first statement – trying to avoid a sale by passing “stewardship and care” of the club to trustees at Chelsea’s charitable foundation – came the night before he faced Liverpool in February, a game she was after an 11-10 on penalties lost 0-0 draw. Now Chelsea are set to face Liverpool again with what they hope will be their ownership mess in hindsight.
“As is well known, we gave our all in this final and it was a great match that lasted until the very last penalty,” said Tuchel after the semifinals on Sunday. “Of course we were unlucky and lost it.
“We want to turn things around. It won’t give us back the Carabao title, but we’re here. We were here in the FA Cup final last season, we’re here again and it means a lot to us because the FA Cup is the most prestigious, maybe the most traditional trophy in the world to be played at Wembley.
“There aren’t many bigger games to play in, so we’re grateful and we’ll be well prepared because we’re playing against one of the strongest teams in the world, who are in great form given the results. We’ll try.” to make life difficult for them.”
Ever since that initial Abramovich announcement, the identity of Chelsea has been in question – a club so irrevocably molded in the image of a benevolent benefactor, but now Tuchel is trying to keep the Blues at a level they’ve grown accustomed to.
They fell narrowly in midweek, exiting the Champions League in the quarter-finals despite a heroic performance in the second leg at Real Madrid – and the aftermath of such a debilitating night was evident here early on.
Palace boss Patrick Vieira gave up his usual form to level Chelsea with a three-man defense and given the Blues’ leaden legs early on, the first half was a stalemate of sorts, most notable for an injury to Mateo Kovacic, the Loftus- Cheek forced introduction in the 26th minute.
Although Chelsea improved after the restart, the game still appeared to be headed towards extra time when Tyrick Mitchell lost the ball cheaply on the edge of Palace’s box after 65 minutes, breaking the Blues. Kai Havertz went for a cross but his pass deflected and landed perfectly on Loftus-Cheek, whose shot flew past Palace goalkeeper Jack Butland with a slight deflection.
It was quite a moment for Loftus-Cheek to score his first goal of the season and end a streak of 59 games and 56 shots without a goal.
Palace’s game plan was reversed and they were unable to move through the aisles. Eleven minutes elapsed before Timo Werner pressed on and set up a fine pass for Mount, who scored a second to seal Chelsea’s place in next month’s showpiece.
There was still time for a series of substitutions and an embarrassing miss from Romelu Lukaku – hitting the post from five yards out – but that didn’t alter Tuchel’s remarkable semi-final record, now 11 of 11 for Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint -Germain and Chelsea.
Even more impressively, it is Tuchel’s sixth final with Chelsea in just 15 months since succeeding Frank Lampard as head coach. And this will be their third consecutive FA Cup final after losing to Arsenal under Lampard last year and Leicester City in 2020, adding to the feeling that Chelsea are coming full circle.
“Having that grand final at the end of the season is tremendous because there’s that joy in making something wait, right now when not only is the league challenging enough, but you have another final that’s one Chance gives a lot of self-confidence and it’s a big emotional boost,” said Tuchel.
“Now we can only prepare well because it’s going to be another tough fight given the quality and recent form of Liverpool, it’s incredibly difficult to beat them,” added Tuchel. “But that’s what a cup final is about – it’s about winning. We have to try to find a way to beat them.”
Chelsea usually finds a way. You have another chance to do so now – perhaps at the dawn of a new era.