Chelsea have spent most of 2022 operating at a distance from Manchester City and Liverpool’s title fight but comfortably ensconced inside the top four.
However, some patchy recent performances against a background of off-field turmoil left Thomas Tuchel’s squad looking anxiously over their shoulders, with London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham keeping up the chase.
A 3-0 win on Wednesday at 10-man Leeds United did plenty to ease those fears, with Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku all on target as Daniel James was sent off.
Last season’s European Champions now need two more points to be certain of a place in the Champions League next term. In reality, they only need one.
What is Chelsea’s recent form like?
In short, not great. Heading into the Leeds game, Tuchel’s men had only one win in five Premier League games following their FA Cup semi-final win against Crystal Palace.
The only victory in this slump needed a 90th-minute winner from Pulisic against West Ham.
There was a chaotic 4-2 London derby loss at home to Arsenal and a 1-0 reverse at the hands of an Everton side battling against relegation.
A 1-1 draw at Manchester United would be looked upon favourably in normal circumstances but Ralf Rangnick’s side have provided rich pickings elsewhere.
The most dispiriting result of the lot arguably came last weekend when Chelsea ceded a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at home to Wolves.
Leeds 0-3 Chelsea: What happened at Elland Road?
Chelsea made a flying start against their relegation-threatened opponents, as Mount combined delightfully with Reece James in the fourth minute before arrowing a strike into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Leeds were left with a mountain to climb after the midway point of the half when forward James was shown a straight red card for a high and heavy challenge on Mateo Kovacic, who limped out of the action shortly afterwards.
Lukaku finished smartly from an offside position before the interval and Chelsea were content to manage the game efficiently with their extra man during the second period.
Mount turned provider in the 54th minute, putting a lovely flick into the path of Pulisic for the USMNT star to net his sixth Premier League goal of the season.
Pulisic was close to making it three after the hour when Rodrigo carelessly gave away possession – a theme of a Leeds performance that leaves Jesse Marsch side staring at the drop.
Lukaku worked tirelessly to add to his weekend brace and clipped a low shot agonisingly wide at the end of a driving solo run.
The Belgium striker would not be denied as he kept his cool amid some desperate challenges to smash home from close range in the 83rd minute.
Three in his last two! 🤝
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 11, 2022
What matches do Chelsea have left?
The Blues’ progression to Saturday’s FA Cup final against Liverpool means their final two Premier League matches will come within the space of four days next week.
On paper, the two further points Chelsea require look very achievable in back-to-back home games.
Their opponents are a Leicester City side comfortably placed in mid-table and already relegated Watford on the season’s final day.
Realistically, a single point will be sufficient given their massive advantages of 28 and 22 over Arsenal and Spurs respectively in terms of goal difference
There is every chance the Blues’ Champions League status will be settled before they kick a ball again in the Premier League.
Can Arsenal and Tottenham still catch Chelsea?
Technically, yes, but Chelsea’s cause is massively helped by the fact the bitter north London rivals face one another at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday.
Anything over than a victory for Spurs will mean Chelsea are certain of their top-four spot. If Tottenham do win, then they and Arsenal must win each of their final two games and hope Chelsea collapse.
Arsenal travel to Newcastle on May 16 before entertaining Everton on the final day. Tottenham are at home to Burnley on Sunday and conclude at relegated Norwich.
Regardless, Chelsea are almost there.