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UCL Finalist: Chelsea — Champions or Underdogs?

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The most anticipated game of the season, the UEFA Champions League Final, is just 10 days away. Finalist Chelsea is looking forward to another dramatic UCL final.

Mason Mount celebrates with Christian Pulisic - Chelsea - UEFA Champions League Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

History in the Competition

Just nine years ago, the UEFA Champions League final was planned to be played in Munich. Both Chelsea and Bayern Munich earned their seats in the final of 2011-12 UCL season. Chelsea were at a clear disadvantage considering the Germans’ history. Two players of that Chelsea squad were unmatched heroes for the London outfit resulting in their first and only Champions League honours.

Bayern was in control, attempting to score a total of 13 times compared to only twice for Chelsea during the 90 minutes. Young Thomas Muller put the Germans on top at the 83rd minute with header only to be answered five minutes later by a Drogba header to send the match to extra time. Then Drogba was once again in the spotlight, but by conceding a penalty in front of his own goal. However, Peter Cech was there to correct that mistake by saving the penalty kick and Chelsea.

Down to PKs to decide the match and tournament, Cech again played his part by saving the fourth and fifth, returning the pressure to Drogba once again. Drogba sent Manuel Neuer to the wrong side to decide the match in Chelsea’s favor.

Champions League, Finale 2012, Bayern München - Chelsea 4:5 Photo by Team 2 Sportphoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Domestic Campaign 2020-21

Chelsea spent more than half of the English Premier League (game-weeks 1-21) jumping up and down between third and eleventh in the table. Then Frank Lampard was sacked and Thomas Tuchel brought in. Since then, Chelsea players have been connected by invisible grinta strings fed by grand-master puppeteer Tuchel to record eight clean sheets in ten matches. Since his appointment, Tuchel climbed the ranks and is currently sitting comfortably in third place with a nearly confirmed UCL qualification for next season after throwing Leicester down toward Liverpool’s wide open jaws.

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Chelsea also waged an impressive FA Cup campaign this season brushing off Morecambe 4-0, Luton Town 3-1 and defeating Barnsley 1-0 to reach the quarter finals. Tuchel’s clean sheets kept on coming, credited to his pressing style and Mendy’s prowess between the posts. Chelsea knocked out Sheffield United 2-0 and surprised Manchester City 1-0 in the semifinals. Unfortunately, and unlike their UCL Final opponents (EFL Cup winners Manchester City), Chelsea slipped in the final to Leicester 0-1.

Chelsea v Leicester City: The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

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In the EFL Cup, Chelsea’s campaign kicked off in September under Lampard with an amazing 6-0 third round victory over Barnsley. Just six days later in the fourth round, the London outfit was defeated by penalty shootouts against Tottenham after 1-1 draw.


Road to the UCL Final

Chelsea headed Group E this season accompanied by Sevilla, Rennes and first time participants Krasnodar. Sevilla impressed in the first matchday, holding Chelsea to a 0-0 draw. They managed three consecutive victories to stay level with Chelsea until MD-5. Both teams bumped heads in Spain when Oliver Giroud scored a super hattrick to win the group with one match to spare.

FC Porto v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final 3: Leg One Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

The switch from Lampard to Tuchel took place before the Round of 16. Chelsea drew Atletico Madrid and went on to destroy La Liga’s table leaders 3-0 in aggregate.

In the quarterfinals, Tuchel’s men were absolute favourites to reach the semis through Porto. The first match was played in now-neutral Seville, and Chelsea won 2-0 comfortably. The return leg in London went against expectations and highlighted the lack of prolific strikers more than ever for Chelsea, but the late Porto goal was not enough to shake Tuchel and stop him from trusting the same key players.

His trust paid dividends in the semifinals against 13 time UCL Champions Real Madrid. The first leg in Spain ended in a 1-1 draw, giving Chelsea the slight advantage of an away goal and playing at home in the return leg. Despite lineup selection mistakes by Zinedine Zidane, Chelsea’s performance in that return leg will still sway the odds-makers slightly away from favoring Manchester City too heavily the final.

Real Madrid v Chelsea - UEFA Champions League Photo by Oscar J. Barroso/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Injuries and Impact of Covid-19

The first player to contract the virus this season was Ben Chilwell in October; he was followed by Havertz in November. Three months later it was Christensen’s turn, right around the time when Tammy Abraham suffered a knee injury that put him out for around two months. Since then, Chelsea’s camp has been COVID free, but the infirmary is occupied by Kante and Christensen. Both players may be fit again before the finals.


The Opponents Manchester City

My colleague Dhivakhar has outlined informative comparisons and predicted line-ups in his article about Manchester City. Check it out!


UCL Final Build up

Be sure to come back to NMA next week Thursday for our usual UCL matchday articles starting with a preview followed by player picks, RMT and finally the Live Chat on the awaited day May 29!

But don’t let the fun end there. Join NMA’s Euros 2020 mini-league — here’s how!

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We would love to know your lineup and score predictions. How many of your fantasy picks players have crashed out, leaving holes in your fantasy roster? Around whom do you hope to build your final team? What tactical questions do you have? Please share in the comments section. Cheers!

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