Chelsea FC in control of Champions League fate as Stamford Bridge fans and Timo Werner offer edge vs Leicester

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<p>Chelsea have a top-four finish in their sights</p> (Getty Images)

Chelsea have a top-four finish in their sights

(Getty Images)

Chelsea will face Aston Villa on the final day of the season with Champions League qualification in their hands after a 2-1 win over top-four rivals Leicester City in a rematch of Saturday’s FA Cup final.

In earning revenge for the Foxes’s 1-0 win at Wembley, Chelsea moved four points clear of fifth-place Liverpool, who have a game in hand, and left Brendan Rodgers’ side facing another devastating late slip out of the Champions League places.

Chelsea will definitely finish in the Premier League top four in they match Leicester’s result against Tottenham at Villa Park.

The outcome was no less than Chelsea deserved for a dominant display and the scoreline flattered Leicester, who looked like they had come for the point which would keep their fate in their own hands.

The Blues, by contrast, were clearly determined to win and within 10 minutes had peppered Leicester’s goal with efforts and pegged the visitors back into their 18-yard box, roared on by 8,000 returning supporters.

It took until a minute into the second half to finally get the breakthrough, Antonio Rudiger bundling home after Jamie Vardy had inadvertently flicked on a Chelsea corner.

Jorginho doubled the lead from the penalty spot after Timo Werner was fouled but Leicester pounced on a Mateo Kovacic error to score through Kelechi Iheanacho and make for a nervous finale.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Ahead of the game, Thomas Tuchel was under more scrutiny than at any point since he succeeded Frank Lampard in January after 1-0 defeats to Arsenal and Leicester which had threatened to derail the season.

This win was a impressive show of character from the Blues and ensured their season remains on track ahead of the Champions League Final against Man City.

Tuchel’s selections at Wembley on Saturday backfired but he held his nerve here, making just two outfield changes in Ben Chilwell and Christian Pulisic, in for Marco Alonso and Hakim Ziyech.

Despite relatively similar personnel, Chelsea were unrecognisable from Saturday and Tuchel was rewarded for sticking with Werner, who put in a brilliant centre-forward’s display, even if he did not score.

The manager is now within touching distance of achieving his main aim of Champions League qualification, which would make this campaign a success whatever happens in Porto.

Werner perseverance pays off

In the week when Harry Kane effectively came on the transfer market, Werner produced a characteristically industrious but unfortunate display as Chelsea’s focal point.

In a one-sided first half, Werner did everything but score a (legal) goal, twice having efforts disallowed and being denied what looked a penalty by referee Mike Dean.

AP
AP

The German could have few complaints about either disallowed goal, as first his cool finished was correctly overruled by the linesman’s flag before he bundled home at the back post from a corner with use of his arm.

He could, however, feel more aggrieved about Dean’s decision to penalise him for simulation when he appeared to step in front of Youri Tielemans’ back-lift.

You could comfortably compile a list of unfortunate Werner moments in a Chelsea shirt but the frequency with which he falls short suggest something still missing in his game, perhaps simply confidence in the final third.

But even after missing another chance in the second half - an effort fired straight at Kasper Schmeichel from Mateo Kovacic’s fine pass - Werner persevered, finally getting a decision from the VAR when he was caught from behind by Wesley Fofana.

The decion was no less than he deserved for a performance which was only lacking luck – or finesse – in front of goal.

In many respects, that has been the story of Werner’s season - but he will hope his fortunes change next term.

Fans urge Chelsea on

Just as Leicester appeared to feed off their supporters at Wembley on Saturday, Chelsea’s were spurred on by the return of their supporters.

With the backing of 8,000 fans, who often sounded more like 40,000, Chelsea threatened to overwhelm Leicester for long periods of the game.

Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

By half-time, they could already have been out of sight and they maintained the pressure at least until Iheanacho’s introduction on the hour.

Given the amount of chances they were missing, Chelsea might easily have started questioning themselves in an empty stadium but it was to their credit – and the fans’ – that they kept up the relentless pressure.

The impact of supporters for the final two rounds of the season is, on this evidence, unlikely to be entirely meaningless and could see home sides up their game to make for an unpredictable finale on Sunday.

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