Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea: Blues lose but seal top-four finishon May 23, 2021 at 7:24 pm

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Chelsea secure a place in next season’s Champions League despite losing to Aston Villa.

Bertrand Traore scores for Aston Villa against Chelsea at Villa Park

The Blues had started the day in third spot, knowing victory over their mid-table opponents would guarantee a place in the group stage of Europe’s prestigious knockout club competition.

Thomas Tuchel’s side carved out the better chances but fell behind when Bertrand Traore’s attempt went in off the underside of the crossbar following Matt Targett’s corner.

It went from bad to worse for Chelsea when Edouard Mendy was injured, making him a doubt for next Saturday’s Champions League final with Manchester City.

Substitute keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was beaten by Anwar El Ghazi’s second-half penalty after former Chelsea player Traore was fouled by Jorginho, before Ben Chilwell pulled one back for the visitors from close range.

Chelsea finished the game with 10 men after captain Cesar Azpilicueta’s straight red card for a foul on Jack Grealish, but Leicester’s home defeat by Tottenham means Tuchel’s side finish the season in fourth on 67 points – one more than fifth-placed Leicester.

Chelsea finished one point above fifth-placed Leicester City

From ninth to Champions League spot

On a dramatic final day, Tuchel and his players experienced a full range of emotions before it was finally confirmed they had secured a Champions League group place.

It is an impressive achievement considering the Blues were ninth when Tuchel took charge in January, and of course his side could yet end the season by being crowned champions of Europe.

But they will have to play better – and show more discipline – than they did against Villa if they are to win in Porto next weekend after their first Premier League away defeatunder the German.

Traore was unmarked when he fired Villa ahead, while Jorginho’s foul on the Villa midfielder gifted the hosts a second goal from the spot.

Azpilicueta can have few complaints about his red card but most worrying for Tuchel will be the fitness of Mendy.

The Senegal keeper has settled well since arriving from Rennes in September and proved a calming influence on the defenders in front of him. Tuchel will hope his injury does not hamper his plans for next weekend.

Villa ended a highly satisfactory season with a thrilling win in front of their own fans, and their total of 55 points is 20 more than they managed last season when they escaped relegation on the final day of the campaign.

In front of England boss Gareth Southgate, who names his squad for the European Championship on Tuesday, Villa produced a performance oozing character – but manager Dean Smith faces a big summer.

Grealish’s return from injury has added energy to the side but will the captain be at his hometown club next season?

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