Chelsea set their sights on third place in Premier League finale against recently relegated Watford


Chelsea will be looking to finish their Premier League season in third place as they host an already relegated Watford at Stamford Bridge.

It has been a rollercoaster of a few months for the Blues, with sanctions and a club sale taking over the headlines throughout the second half of the campaign. On the pitch the west London outfit have featured in six different competitions, winning the Super Cup and Club World Cup on their way to the final day.

Come full time on Sunday they will have played 63 games in total, a number that will only be equaled by Liverpool when they compete in the Champions League final next Saturday.

Thomas Tuchel’s Blues will come up against the Hornets, who saw their relegation to the Championship confirmed earlier in the month when they lost 1-0 away at Crystal Palace.

Far from plane sailing for Chelsea

After their UEFA Champions League triumph against Manchester City in May, many tipped Chelsea to be in contention for this season’s Premier League. A summer signing of Romelu Lukaku to bolster their attack would further convince some that they could surpass Manchester City and Liverpool to the title.

Their season began with a trophy lift as they beat Villarreal 6-5 on penalties in the Super Cup final in Belfast. Wins in the league against Crystal Palace and Arsenal would follow as well as a solid point away at Liverpool, with the Blues playing the second half at Anfield with just ten men.

Two consecutive losses at the end of September to Manchester City and Juventus would highlight some weaknesses in the side, but they soon went on a run of 12 games unbeaten in all competitions until the start of festive period.

Chelsea’s form was impressive and they looked to be repaying the faith that many had shown before the season started. However, poor results would soon follow.

A loss away at West Ham would signal the start of a sub-par run of games, with the Blues scraping a win against Leeds before draws against Everton and Wolves would see them slip down the rankings in the table. Covid cases and various injuries impacted their form over the period and while they weren’t losing many games, they were certainly struggling at times.

The international break at the end of January was certainly welcomed and they soon jetted off to the United Arab Emirates for the Club World Cup. Victories against Al Hilal and Palmeiras would see them lift the trophy for the first time in their history, and therefore mean they have won every major title possible.

Tuchel’s side then faced Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final towards the end of February but after an eventful game in normal time, with Lukaku’s extra-time goal being controversially ruled out, Chelsea lost on penalties against the Reds.

Just days later though, the future of the club was the topic of much speculation as Roman Abramovich announced that he was putting the club up for sale. He was also sanctioned by the UK Government the following week, with the club’s operations affected as a result.

While matters off the pitch were far from clear, on the pitch the Blues were able to progress in both the Champions League and FA Cup with respective wins against Lille and Middlesbrough. However once they returned from another international break, their form began to fluctuate massively.

Chelsea lost 4-1 to Brentford and 3-1 to Real Madrid in the space of four days, with both defeats taking place on their home turf. Despite a spirited comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu in their Champions League quarter-final, the competition holders were knocked out on aggregate.

A top four finish had been on the cards for some time but with Arsenal and Spurs both picking up form below them, questions were soon raised as to whether or not they’d be able finish in the coveted Premier League places. The Gunners won 4-2 at Stamford Bridge before Manchester United, Everton and Wolves all took points from the Blues, with the Toffees beating them at Goodison Park.

Victory away at Leeds United would all but confirm their top four finish and despite another penalty shootout loss against Liverpool in the FA Cup final, their 1-1 draw against Leicester City on Thursday has effectively secured them a third place finish.

It has been a far from straightforward season for Tuchel and his side. They were in contention to challenge for the Premier League but various absences and poor runs of form have seen them stutter throughout the campaign.

However they will be able to end the season in the knowledge that Champions League football has been secured for yet another year, and a further two trophies have been added to the trophy cabinet. Life at the club will also change for the foreseeable future as American businessman Todd Boehly prepares for his pending takeover of the west London side.

Watford approaching end to dismal campaign

For many Watford fans, the end of the season couldn’t come any sooner. It has been a dismal campaign for the Hornets, who could end up bottom of the table on the final day should Norwich beat Spurs.

An opening day win against Aston Villa sparked some belief that they could avoid Premier League relegation this season, having just been promoted from the Championship. However their hopes would soon be dashed as they progressed through the season.

Xisco Munoz was sacked as manager after just nine games, with Claudio Ranieri replacing him at the helm. While the Italian was able to bring his depth of experience to Vicarage Road, he was unable to change their fortunes. A shock 4-1 home win against Manchester United was soon followed by a run of 12 straight games without a win in all competitions.

Their first victory in just under three months came away at Villa. Four games prior Ranieri would be in charge of his last game at the club as they lost 3-0 at home to Norwich, with Roy Hodgson coming in to be their third manager of the season.

However their form would fail to improve, with the Hertfordshire outfit picking up just one win in 13 games since their victory at Villa Park. As they approached the latter stages of the season, relegation back to the second tier of English football was becoming inevitable.

Watford’s fate was sealed in their trip to Selhurst Park, with the Hornets travelling to south London knowing that anything but a win would seal their demotion. A Wilfried Zaha penalty was enough to give Palace the three points and therefore send their opponents down.

Sunday’s trip to Chelsea will be their last Premier League game for the foreseeable future. An instant return to the top flight isn’t necessarily guaranteed, especially considering how strong the promotion hopefuls have been in the Championship this season.

Hodgson will also be in charge of his final match at the club, with the 74-year-old revealing earlier in the month that he will not stay beyond the season. He will be replaced by Rob Edwards, who guided Forest Green Rovers to the Sky Bet League Two title this season.

Watford will now once again have to adapt back to the Championship as they search for a return to the Premier League, but their visit to Chelsea at the weekend could be another stark reminder of the quality that the English top flight has to offer.

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