Manchester City’s quadruple dream has been extinguished by Chelsea. Even more concerning could be the injury to Kevin De Bruyne for the ongoing pursuit of a treble.
Chelsea will be back at Wembley Stadium next month for the FA Cup final after a 1-0 victory over City was clinched by Hakim Ziyech on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola will return even sooner next Sunday with City for the League Cup final but with doubts over whether De Bruyne will be fit to face Tottenham.
“It doesn’t look quite good,” Guardiola said. “But we will see tomorrow.”
The influential Belgian playmaker hobbled off with an apparent ankle injury just as City is entering a crunch period of the season.
A 11-point Premier League lead makes collecting that trophy a near-certainty but there is also a first Champions League semifinal with City for Guardiola against Paris Saint-Germain in what remains the priority title for the club.
“We started the game a little bit slow and struggled a bit in the first half,” City midfielder Fernandinho said.
While Guardiola has been in charge almost five years at City, Thomas Tuchel has only been at Chelsea three months.
After picking up the pieces following the firing of Frank Lampard, the German now has a shot at a trophy in the FA Cup final against Leicester or Southampton next month. And like City, Chelsea remains in Champions League contention with Real Madrid awaiting in the last four.
“All the ways are still open, everybody is excited by it,” Ziyech said. “And we cannot wait to play these games.”
The performance against City will offer Tuchel encouragement of silverware. While Timo Werner struggles for goals, assists are less of a problem. It was his 12th of his first season at Chelsea, setting up Ziyech for the close-range finish in the 55th minute in an unguarded net after American goalkeeper Zack Steffen was left stranded.
“Their goal was indecision on my hands and I’ll learn from it,” Steffen said. “You have to keep going and I’m proud of how the boys fought and didn’t give up. The good thing is there is another game in three or four days so we can’t get too low on this one.”
There were no Chelsea fans to witness the goal in person. But they should be allowed back into Wembley for the May 15 final as coronavirus restrictions are eased.
How to get safely back into venues will be assessed at Wembley on Sunday when up to 4,000 locals from the north London district are allowed in to see Leicester take on Southampton if they can produce a negative coronavirus test result.
SHEFFIELD UNITED RELEGATED
With six games remaining, the Premier League lost its first team on Saturday. Sheffield United experienced the joint-earliest relegation in the competition’s history, alongside Ipswich, Derby and Huddersfield after losing 1-0 to Wolverhampton.
Last season both Wolves and Sheffield United finished in the top half of the standings. Wolves have plummeted to 12th this campaign and Willian Jose’s goal confirmed the end of last-place United’s two-season stay in the top division.
“We are now starting from a better position, financially stronger and with much more experience in the squad,” said Paul Heckingbottom, the interim manager since Chris Wilder’s firing by the club’s Saudi ownership last month. “Everyone will be committed to going straight back up.
“It’s everyone’s careers at stake, personal pride. They have to take control of their own performances. The fight and spirit is there, we have just been short. There has been a lot of hurt in the dressing room for a long time.”
NEWCASTLE EYES SURVIVAL
Newcastle moved nine points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-2 victory over West Ham.
Newcastle led through Issa Diop’s own-goal and Craig Dawson was sent off for receiving a second booking in the buildup. Joelinton’s tap-in extended Newcastle’s lead before halftime but it was wiped out by Diop’s header in the 73rd and Jesse Lingard’s penalty after Ciaran Clark handled.
Newcastle recovered its lead through substitute Joe Willock’s powerful header.
“I’m not going to take anything for granted,” Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said. “I’ve always said it’s the accumulation of points, and 35, in my opinion, is not enough, so you won’t get me jumping and hollering at the moment. We’ve still got six games to play.”