Chelsea one step closer to Europa League qualification

After picking up yet another much-needed win in the Blues' final away trip of the season at Brighton, Chelsea are in pole position to clinch Europa League football after Newcastle failed to pick up a result at Old Trafford.
Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea FC - Premier League / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Boy, has Mauricio Pochettino's Blues turned it around this month! Chelsea now won four on the trot and move up to sixth in the Premier League with a three-point gap between them and Newcastle United, who drop down to seventh after much-needed help from Manchester United, beating the Magpies as both matches played simultaneously.

Heading into the final game of the season, Chelsea will host Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge, needing only a point to clinch sixth place and Europa League qualification, assuming Manchester United fail to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final. However, the Blues won't just be satisfied with a point; the team’s on fire, seeking yet another win to end the season.

Many thought the season would end in gloom again, in midtable mediocrity, but they aim to finish on a high, potentially securing fifth position ahead of a London rival— but first, let's recap CFC's final away match of the 2023-24 season.

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea extended their strong finish to the season by securing a 2-1 victory against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday evening. Goals from Cole Palmer (no surprise there) and Christopher Nkunku were sufficient for Mauricio Pochettino’s team to claim all three points and ascend to sixth place in the Premier League table with one game remaining.

However, the evening was marred somewhat by Reece James, who was playing in just his second game since returning from a long-term injury, receiving a late red card for lashing out on Joao Pedro. This marks the skipper’s second sending off of the season and means he will miss the next four matches, extending into next season.

After being reduced to ten men, Chelsea endured a nervy final stretch, conceding in the seventh minute of stoppage time, courtesy of Danny Welbeck, but it ultimately served as a consolation. Amidst the chaos of his first season at Chelsea, Mauricio Pochettino can envision the prospect of a Europa League campaign taking shape. It also helps when other results go in your favor.

Manchester United 3-2 Newcastle United

Manchester United's dismal season concluded with a glimmer of joy at Old Trafford as they not only delighted their supporters but also earned cheers from Chelsea fans. The match saw youngster Kobbie Mainoo propel United into a deserved lead midway through the first half, despite Anthony Gordon's penalty appeals being waved away and a Dan Burn header cleared off the line by Casemiro.

Although Gordon leveled the score for Newcastle early in the second half and Erik ten Hag's team appeared shaky, Amad Diallo swiftly restored United's lead just before the hour mark. A late goal from substitute Rasmus Hojlund and a nerve-wracking screamer from Lewis Hall kept the tension high, but United held on for a crucial victory, keeping their hopes alive for at least Conference League football and aiding the west London club in the process.

Comes down to the final day - Tottenham Hotspurs to bottle fifth place?

Despite having sixth place firmly within CFC’s grasp, with only a point needed to confirm a remarkable turnaround of the season, Chelsea now find themselves three points behind Tottenham in fifth place as we approach the final day—surely it can't happen, right?

The Blues face off against Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge, while the north Londoners travel to Bramall Lane to play the already relegated Sheffield United. Now, it may be a tough ask, but we’re bound to have drama on the final day of the season, so why not here?

Despite already knowing their fate, the Blades are playing in front of their fans for the last time before dropping down to the EFL Championship with no pressure and nothing to play for other than pride. Sheffield United nearly got the win in the reverse fixture at Spurs’ ground if it weren’t for two stoppage-time goals, so history does show they’re capable of surprising Ange Postecoglou’s team.

Tottenham only needs a draw to clinch fifth, similar to how Chelsea only needs a draw to secure sixth. On paper, there’s not much of a difference between fifth and sixth, but there’s no better feeling than getting the best out of a rival.

Not only that, fifth place gives you an automatic passage to the Europa League rather than relying on Man City to beat Man United to secure Europa League in sixth place. Not only that, the Blues were in 11th place in March—ELEVENTH PLACE. Let that sink in.

Many Chelsea fans may say our standards have dropped for celebrating this, but if you were to tell any CFC supporters a few months ago that they would be satisfied with the Conference League, let alone the Europa League, they would’ve bitten your hand off.

Assuming Tottenham doesn’t falter at the final hurdle, and Chelsea gets the job done on Sunday, the Pensioners will turn their attention to the FA Cup final, hoping no surprises occur, and Chelsea head to the Europa League.