By reaching the FA Cup final, Chelsea can redeem a season derailed by uncertainty and ownership drama


LONDON — Chelsea’s most turbulent season in modern history could end like so many before it: with another trophy.

Chelsea return to Wembley on May 14 to play in the FA Cup final against Liverpool after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 in Sunday’s second semi-final thanks to goals from substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount. They may even have a new owner by then.

New York-based investment bank Raine Group is expected to identify the preferred bidder from a shortlist of four in the coming days. Once the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport approves the chosen party, the Premier League will carry out the required ownership tests – chief executive Richard Masters said the fastest previous completion was 10 days “but that doesn’t mean the record can’t be broken.”

It is therefore possible that Chelsea’s first piece of silverware in the post-Roman Abramovich era could arrive sooner rather than later, the culmination of an extremely uncertain two-and-a-half-month period which began with the last visit of Chelsea at Wembley, Carabao Cup final defeat in February against (coincidentally) Liverpool.

The mere fact that they have this opportunity is testament to the work done by manager Thomas Tuchel in navigating a season whose win on Sunday was Chelsea’s 54th game in all competitions. On the other hand, Crystal Palace only played 37.

Expectations are clearly lower at Palace – it was only their second FA Cup semi-final since 1995 – and Tuchel boasts a squad with much greater depth as a result. But Chelsea have had to negotiate an unprecedented fate since Abramovich hinted his ownership could change before UK government sanctions curb the club’s ability to operate as usual. Travel plans were thrown into chaos, contract negotiations frozen, the club shop closed.

Abramovich’s first statement – attempting to avoid a sale by transferring the ‘stewardship and care’ of the club to the trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation – came the night before facing Liverpool in February, a match that they then lost 11-10 on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Now Chelsea will face Liverpool again with, they hope, their ownership mess in the rear view mirror.

“We gave everything in this final, as you know, and it was a big game that went down to the very last penalty,” Tuchel said after Sunday’s semi-final. “Of course we were unlucky and lost it.

“We want to turn things around. It won’t give us back the Carabao title but we are here. We were here last season in the FA Cup final, we are here again, and that means a lot to us because the FA Cup is the most prestigious, perhaps the most traditional cup in the world, played at Wembley.

“There aren’t many big games to play in. That’s why we’re grateful and we’ll be well prepared because we’re up against one of the strongest teams in the world, who are in exceptional form considering the results. We will try to make life difficult for them.”

Since that first announcement from Abramovich, the very identity of Chelsea has come into question – a club so irrevocably shaped in the image of a benevolent benefactor, but now with Tuchel trying to keep the Blues to the level they have grown to. accustomed.

They fell slightly short in midweek, exiting the Champions League at the quarter-final stage despite a heroic performance in the second leg at Real Madrid – and the aftermath of such a debilitating night was evident from the start here.

Palace boss Patrick Vieira dropped his usual form to match Chelsea with a three-man defense and, given the Blues’ lead legs early on, the first half was something of a stalemate, not least for an injury to Mateo Kovacic, forcing Loftus-Cheek. Presentation in the 26th minute.

Although Chelsea improved after the restart, the game still seemed to drift into extra time when Tyrick Mitchell cheaply lost the ball at the edge of Palace’s penalty area after 65 minutes and the Blues were broken. Kai Havertz looked to cross but his pass deflected, falling perfectly for Loftus-Cheek, whose shot flew past Palace keeper Jack Butland via a slight deflection.

It was quite a moment for Loftus-Cheek to score his first goal of the season, ending a streak of 59 games and 56 shots without scoring.

Palace’s game plan was scrapped and they were unable to kick things into high gear. Eleven minutes passed before Timo Werner made inroads and clocked a fine pass for Mount, who slotted a second home to seal Chelsea’s place in next month’s showpiece.

There was still time for a string of substitutions and an embarrassing foul from Romelu Lukaku – hitting the post from five yards out with the goal at his mercy – but that didn’t affect Tuchel’s now remarkable record in the semi-finals. 11 out of 11 for Borussia. Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

More impressively, this is Tuchel’s sixth final with Chelsea in just 15 months since taking over from Frank Lampard as head coach. And it will be a third consecutive FA Cup final after losing to Arsenal in 2020 under Lampard and Leicester City last year, reinforcing the feeling that Chelsea are coming full circle.

“Having this grand final at the end of the season is huge because it gives you this joy of having something waiting and right now if it’s not just the league, which is quite demanding, but you have a another final, which gives you a lot of confidence and it’s a big emotional boost,” said Tuchel.

“All we can do now is be well prepared because it will be another tough fight given the quality and recent form of Liverpool, it is incredibly difficult to beat them,” added Tuchel. “But that’s what a cup final is – it’s winning. We have to try to find a way to beat them.”

Chelsea usually finds a way. They have another chance to do so now – perhaps at the dawn of a new era.


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