Monday’s soccer news starts with a week of buildup for the Champions League final. The Premier League season came to an end on Sunday with Zack Steffen’s Manchester City already clinching the title and Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea finishing 4th after a final day loss at Aston Villa.
“It was the story of the season,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said. “We needed many clean sheets to overcome this lack of composure and precision. We conceded two goals from set-pieces out of nothing and made it hard to come back, but we even then we had enough chances to come back. We are still a young team and we try to improve them and make them learn from every game. We need to adjust details and we need to be spot on on Saturday if we are to have a positive outcome. We have no regrets.”
Before assuming Tuchel was heading for the full Edith Paif non je ne regrette rien, he was the one with the reminder that Chelsea relied on other results to claim a Champions League place. He said, “we are lucky Tottenham finished the job for us today” while also stressing that “we were in the position that it was possible to end in the top four with a defeat. That was possible because of the team’s hard work and good results.”
Fair enough, and they can still make that irrelevant by beating Manchester City on Saturday in Porto. Still, the run-in hasn’t been straightforward.
Chelsea sent the clearest possible message by beating Manchester City 1-0 away on May 8. What followed were back-to-back losses, Arsenal in the league and Leicester City in the FA Cup final. The difference in all three of those games was one goal, the same scenario we saw on Sunday in the 2-1 loss at Villa. Chelsea responded to the FA Cup loss by beating Leicester City 2-1 in the league, but it’s tough to draw a line between what’s worked recently and taking the Champions League title from the Premier League winners.
Manchester City, meanwhile, needed four goals to win at Newcastle and then lost 3-2 to Brighton. Their final day hammering of Everton 5-0 at home is a quick reminder of how dominant this team can be, but it’s still in the shadow of losing at home to Chelsea in the Premier League. Sunday’s trophy celebration with fans at the Etihad Stadium can’t help but create an advantage. Once again, this season is so outside the lines of normal that any push could be enough to make the difference.
In a season of upsets, Manchester City lifting another trophy is fundamentally not that, regardless of their record in Europe. Chelsea has done this before under different management. In the aftermath of the ridiculous couple of days that were The Super League, both clubs have already sent a clear message about intent and the budgets needed to feed this level of the game. That’s not news, but it’s worth the reminder that this season will still end like most of the others in the extended era of the super clubs.
Moving to the soccer news, DW looks at the bottom of the table after the conclusion of the Bundesliga season. The NY Times’ Rory Smith on Atletico Madrid winning La Liga. The Guardian’s Sid Lowe previews the Europa League final with the focus on Villarreal.
The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio with the US Soccer Federation announcing the end of their partnership with Soccer United Marketing. Forbes Ian Nicholas Quillen explains the interest from USL clubs in building stadiums. The LA Times’ Kevin Baxter highlights something closer to normal for LAFC at home.
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