Liverpool and Chelsea gain Champions League places, Leicester City left in the cold
LIVERPOOL, England – Even though the Premier League final produced swaying fortunes in the Champions League race, a chaotic season ended fairly predictably on Sunday.
Liverpool and Chelsea knocked out Leicester to secure top-four rankings that sometimes seemed out of reach during a pandemic squeeze season that has pushed teams to the limit.
Chelsea could even afford to lose 2-1 to Aston Villa and still take fourth place after Leicester were beaten 4-2 by Tottenham.
“There are no more celebrations around the dressing room,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said. “It’s a great relief.”
Jumping into third was a triumph reflecting Liverpool’s readjusted goals in a season of struggles and injuries after handing the trophy to Manchester City, while Manchester United were runners-up.
“From nowhere in the Champions League in five weeks – that’s a huge achievement,” said Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp after Sadio Mane’s goals took a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace. “I’m really happy for the Champions League, they don’t have to play without us.”
This feeling was not evident a month ago when Liverpool and the rest of the possible top four were part of a hastily abandoned attempt to part ways with UEFA competition to launch a breakaway Super League.
Among the two other English rebels who tried to kill the Champions League, Arsenal completely missed the qualification for Europe with a second eighth place in a row despite their 2-0 victory over Brighton and Tottenham will have to settle for the new third level. Europa Conference League after taking seventh place.
It was exactly the type of wild climax of a domestic season that would have ended with a Super League locked in permanent places for 15 clubs, including England’s six, without the need to qualify annually.
Leicester, who were not invited to join the breakaway, spent more days in the top four than any other team before relinquishing after losing to Chelsea in the penultimate round. In the end, those 242 days counted for nothing after relinquishing the lead to Tottenham as a win would have dislodged Chelsea.
“We are lucky that Tottenham did the job for us,” Tuchel said.
It was a heartbreaking conclusion for Leicester, who also came close to shattering the elite established last season on the final day. At least Europa League-linked Leicester were able to parade a trophy on the pitch after winning their first FA Cup last weekend.