Apparently, it’s been a poor season for Chelsea. A gallant defeat against Manchester City ended their FA Cup involvement, but in such a game, there’s no disgrace in defeat. The prospect of Wembley glory has however disappeared, and on top of their early exit from the Champions’ League the Blues’ season could be seen to be petering out. Strange to say then, that for the second year running the west London club is the ‘last man standing’ in European competition, flying the flag for the Premier League. After the lamentable performance of Premier League clubs in the Champions’ League, the elimination of both Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at the quarter-final stage in the Europa League means that only the Blues can secure European glory for England. On top of that, there’s an opportunity for Chelsea to both gain admittance to an exclusive club, and also seal a unique piece of history.
Although now only comprising two competitions, the roll call of Europe’s major trophies used to be three. As well as the Champions’ League – previously known as the European Cup, and the Europa League – previously known as the UEFA Cup, there was the Cup Winners’ Cup, subsumed into the Europa League as well. Currently, only three teams have won all three of these competitions. This season however, the triumvirate of Ajax, Juventus and Bayern Munich, will become a quartet if Chelsea live up to their ‘favourites’ tag and land the Europe League in Amsterdam next month. The Blues could however go one better, and achieve something that no other club has ever achieved in the history of European football.
After securing the Champions’ League trophy last year, Chelsea go into the semi-final against Basel as reigning European champions, and should they prevail against the Swiss club and then take the trophy they will become the only team ever to hold both trophies at the same time – albeit only for a few days.
It’s a nice piece of trivia, and that’s probably all, I guess. The distinction certainly won’t figure high in the aspirations of the club and players, who would much rather be competing with the elite of European clubs, rather than trawling around backwater clubs in pursuit of the lesser trophy, to complete the set, as it were. That said, it seems that perspective is something that is often in short supply at Stamford Bridge, and when the dust settles on the season, on reflection, it may not seem so bad after all.