Thomas Tuchel admitted Chelsea were “lucky” to qualify for the Champions League after a favour from bitter rivals Tottenham meant the Blues’ 2-1 defeat against Aston Villa did not prove fatal on Sunday.
Tuchel’s side were on the brink of missing out on a top four finish in the Premier League in the closing stages of a dramatic conclusion to the season.
They trailed at Villa Park as Bertrand Traore’s opener and Anwar El Ghazi’s penalty rocked the Blues.
Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell reduced the deficit with 20 minutes left.
But, with top four rivals Liverpool and Leicester both winning as the clock ticked down, Chelsea were heading for disaster.
However, Leicester conceded three times in the final minutes of a 4-2 defeat against Tottenham at the King Power Stadium, ensuring Chelsea would finish in fourth place — one point above the fifth placed Foxes.
Blues boss Tuchel admitted Chelsea’s lack of cutting edge in the first half and two sloppy goals gifted to Villa left him relieved to get a helping hand from Tottenham.
“We are lucky Tottenham did the job for us. We came to win and to put any doubts to the side and it was not possible,” Tuchel said.
“I knew three or four minutes before our game was over (that they had made the top four) because the game at Leicester was over a bit earlier and it was clear we were through.
“We did not prepare for the occasion today, we prepared for the match. It’s normally hard to create chances against Aston Villa but we created a lot.
“We are still a young team and we try to evolve and make them better. We needed many clean sheets to overcome this lack of composure and precision.
“Today we conceded out of nothing and made it hard to come back.”
– ‘Full confidence’ –
Despite a rocky run of three defeats in their last four games in all competitions, Tuchel is confident the boost of finishing in the top four will be a major lift ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against Manchester City.
If Chelsea had missed out on the top four, they would have had to beat the Premier League champions in Porto to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition.
That pressure has been lifted and Tuchel said: “A loss never feels good but tomorrow I will take a lot of satisfaction. We reached the objective and congratulations to everyone.
“We are still a young team, players fighting for their first trophies and now we arrive in Porto with full confidence.”
While Tuchel was all smiles after Chelsea’s narrow escape, he left Villa Park sweating on the fitness of Edouard Mendy.
Chelsea keeper Mendy faces a race to be fit for the Champions League final after he was injured in a failed attempt to stop Traore’s first half goal.
The error-prone Kepa Arrizabalaga replaced Mendy at half-time and would feature against City if the Senegal international doesn’t recover in time.
“He fell on the frame of the net and has big pain in his ribs, we need to wait and we will have an update tomorrow,” Tuchel said.
“We have a week to prepare and we will see if it’s possible.”