Chelsea FC’s gruelling Super Cup win shows why first few weeks of new season could swing the title race
Roman Abramovich now has the full set of European trophies.
The Super Cup was secured for the first time under his ownership courtesy of a tactical masterstroke from Thomas Tuchel and Kepa Arrizabalaga’s nerveless display in the penalty shootout that finally saw off Villarreal’s challenge.
The goalkeeper, who has long-since been displaced as Chelsea’s No1, was summoned from the bench at Belfast’s Windsor Park with a minute to go in extra-time and the teams locked at 1-1.
Tuchel gambled and in doing so won his second trophy in quick succession, following May’s Champions League triumph, and ensured an exhausting evening did not end in vain.
The German, who is expected to mount a genuine title challenge this season, will hope the elation of lifting the Super Cup will see his side bounce into the campaign, despite being forced to endure a gruelling 120 minutes just days before their opening game against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
That was the overriding feeling after this tie – just how critical the opening weeks of the season could be for the teams with title ambitions after such a quick turnaround since the tournaments of the summer.
Pep Guardiola declared at the weekend that Premier League champions Manchester City were not ready for the start of the campaign, which sees them travel to Tottenham on Sunday.
City were without a host of key players in their Community Shield defeat to Leicester, with the vast majority of their England contingent only resuming training this week after reaching the final of the Euros.
Chelsea looked leggy on this occasion after dominating the first half – and 30 minutes of extra-time could hardly be considered ideal preparation for Palace.