Thomas Tuchel described himself and Chelsea as ‘lucky’ to secure a fourth place in the Premier League and a Champions League qualification despite a 2-1 loss to Aston Villa on the final day. The West London club achieved the result they wanted after Leicester belatedly imploded to lose 4-2 to Tottenham at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester’s inability to make the top four has been described by Brendan Rodgers as a ‘bitter disappointment’ but the manager said it made him more determined to stick around to lead them higher. Liverpool finished third after beating Crystal Palace 2-0, which led Jürgen Klopp to hail his achievement by coming “out of nowhere in the Champions League in five weeks”.
Leicester, who needed a win to take advantage of a Chelsea or Liverpool slip, led only 2-1 to concede three times in the last 14 minutes – the turning point being a disastrous goal against Kasper Schmeichel.
“We are lucky that Tottenham finished the job for us,” Tuchel said. “We came to win and put doubts aside but it was not possible. I knew maybe three or four minutes before our game was over because the game at Leicester was over a bit earlier.
“We prepared for the game and the goal was to win and I think, again, we are absolutely capable of winning this game. It normally is, so hard to create chances and score against Aston Villa, but we made a lot – so many deliveries. We are still a young team and we are trying to evolve, to learn from every game, but that has been our story throughout the season.
“We needed a lot of clean sheets to overcome this lack of composure and precision. Today we conceded two set-pieces and it was difficult to come back, but we had enough opportunities to turn things around.
The biggest blemish of the day for Tuchel was the injury that chased Édouard Mendy at half-time. The goalkeeper collided with a post as he tried and failed to fend off Bertrand Traore’s opening goal and he is in doubt for the Champions League final against Manchester City on Saturday.
“Mendy fell under the net and he’s feeling a big pain in his ribs,” Tuchel said. “We will have an update tomorrow with what is happening. We’ll see if it’s possible and, if it’s possible, we’ll do everything to get him in goal on Saturday.
Rodgers made no secret of the pain of having to settle for fifth place after winning the FA Cup. “I am bitterly disappointed,” he said. “It hurts and it will probably do the trick for a few days.” But I do know that in a few days, when I look back on the season and think about what the players have given despite the obstacles that we have faced throughout the season – the injuries and all the rest – I will be proud of what they have achieved.
“I told the players that when we started two years ago we were probably a very talented mid-table team. Now we are a team that can be consistently in the upper parts of the table, that can challenge the elite of the division and fight for trophies. We need to take our meds today, but we’ll be ready to come back and push again.
Asked whether not playing in the Champions League might leave him open to offers from clubs in this tournament, Rodgers replied: “I love it here at Leicester City, especially since we’ve just been through beside. It motivates me even more to be here and to try to help the club reach this level.
As for the prospect of other clubs wooing Leicester’s top players this summer, such as James Maddison and Wesley Fofana, Rodgers said. “It’s not something I’m thinking about now. We will see what summer brings. We want to attract players who can improve the team. We’ll see if there are any offers for players or not, but it’s not something we’re really thinking about.