Catch-Up: C Is For… Cardiff, Chelsea, CL

Time for part three of our catch-up of the last three seasons, and we’re up to C. We’ll continue our look at the teams that have graced the Premier League during our hiatus, as well as looking at Europe’s premier club competition – the UEFA Champions League.

Cardiff City were part of our last look at the Championship back in 2015, when they lost in the Playoff Final to Blackpool following their 5th place finish. Failure to get promoted took a heavy toll on the side as they slumped to an 18th-place finish the following season, which cost Stuart McCall his job.

Former-Arsenal legend John Jensen was recruited following his success with Bournemouth where he won the EFL Trophy. He guided Cardiff to the last-sixteen of the FA Cup as well as a top three finish, where they beat Blackpool and Blackburn in the Playoffs to book their place back in the top-flight since 1962.

As the club prepared for the their first-ever Premier League season, the hot favourites for relegation spent only £450k on Marcos Alonso from Bolton in the summer transfer window. Predictably Cardiff finished rock-bottom, nine points adrift. A sixteen-match run from New Years Day 2018 which saw just one win and one draw summed-up their lacklustre challenge for survival, which saw Jensen fired.

New manager Simon Grayson’s first summer signing has been Slovenian striker Maks Barisic from FC Koper for £1.4m ahead of their season back in the second-tier.

In 2015 Chelsea finished 3rd as the title went to the final day between the two Manchester clubs, but they sealed their second Champions League trophy in four seasons with a 2-1 win over Spurs in Istanbul under the guidance of Luciano Spalletti.

He brought in Kyriakos Papadopoulos  (Schalke), Abel Hernández (Palermo), Miralem Pjanic (Roma), and James Milner (Man City) for a combined £52m in the summer. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool, £6m) and Juan Cuadrado (Marseille, £8.5m) the main exports.

Come August, they came from behind to beat Europa League winners Manchester City 3-1 in the UEFA Super Cup in Tbilisi. Heading to South Korea in December 2015, Chelsea beat Atlante and Fluminense to lift the FIFA World Club Cup for the first time. Success also came in the Carabao Cup though, with a 4-2 win over Wigan at Wembley taking the first domestic silverware of the season.

A wobble in April which saw the club collect just two points from five matches meant they missed out on Champions League football by a single point to Liverpool on the final day of the season when an 88th minute equaliser from Stoke midfielder Lee Keun-Ho denied Chelsea all three points. Their European campaign only took them as far as the last sixteen in the UCL, with Benfica scoring a crucial away goal at Stamford Bridge to eliminate the holders.

Ricardo Rodríguez (Wolfsburg) and Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan) arrived for a little over £30m between them, but it was the free capture of Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona that raised eyebrows the most. Hatem Ben Arfa moved to Man United for £20m, days before Kevin De Bruyne followed him up the M6 to join Man City in a £13m deal.

Despite progressing from their Europa League group behind Roma in the 2016-17 season, Spalletti lost his job at Stamford Bridge at the end of a seven-match run which saw Chelsea win just twice, take one point from six against Roma, and lose to Burnley.

Fatih Terim joined from Hamburg as his replacement and his arrival saw Chelsea go on a stunning run: winning his first four matches in charge, and going unbeaten for 20 (17 wins, 3 draws) until a 2-3 home defeat by Norwich in the FA Cup 5th Round. However, they lost just three of their next eighteen on a run that took them to the Premier League title and the Europa League Final. An extra-time goal from Jack Wilshere won it for the Gunners in Paris.

Last summer, Aaron Ramsey and Micah Richards joined from Arsenal in a £30m+ double-deal, with half of that money coming from the sale of Romelu Lukaku to Barcelona. Sebastian Coates later arrived from Bayern Munich for £6.5m.

2017-18 saw the season start with a 2-0 Community Shield win over Norwich. An opening matchday defeat by Marseille was their only slip-up in the Champions League Group Stage as they won their group comfortably. Domestically they reached the Carabao Cup Quarters, losing at home to Arsenal, before defeat at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.

Come February, Chelsea were sat atop the Premier League but defeats to Stoke, Sunderland and Aston Villa in March saw them overtaken by Tottenham. Porto and Atletico Madrid came and went in the Champions League, before Chelsea won both legs of their Semi-Final against Valencia 1-0 to set-up a showdown against PSG in Paris.

In what was billed as a title-decided, Spurs rocked up at Stamford Bridge at the end of April and promptly the hosts away as Chelsea imploded in the first-half, being reduced to nine men following the dismissals of André Aye and Ramires, with Tottenham four-up at the break. A last-minute Inigo goal for the visitors wrapped-up a 5-0 win and the title.

All eyes then focused on the Stade de France as PSG made the short-trip across Paris for the UEFA Champions League Final, Chelsea’s fourth in eleven years. A 70th-minute Eden Hazard goal was all that was needed against the ten-man French champions as Chelsea collected their fifth European trophy in seven seasons.

Our last look at the UEFA Champions League in 2015 saw Chelsea beat Spurs in the final in Istanbul. After Gray Surman’s resignation from Dortmund in 2015, many thought it would take the club a couple of seasons to bounce-back to continental success, but they came very close at first-time of asking by reaching the 2016 Final.

Real Madrid stood in their way in the San Siro, and Antonio Conte’s side battled to take the game to extra-time against Roberto Mancini’s dominant Spanish champions. Cristiano Ronaldo put Real ahead in the 96th minute only for Dortmund to equalise straight from the restart as André Schürrle swept home a cross. 1-1 at the final whistle, it was Real who triumphed from the spot for La Decima.

The two sides met again in the 2017 knockout phases with Real winning 5-3 on aggregate, but Real stumbled in the Quarter-Final against Manchester United which saw the English side join Tottenham, Barcelona, and Marseille in the final four. Spurs’ vital away goal at Old Trafford put them into the Final where they’d face a Marseille side who beat Barça 3-1 in France.

A brace from Emmanual Adebayor and a Leandro Damião goal saw Spurs lift the trophy for the first time in their history (and first continental trophy since 1984), despite Marseille coming from two-down to equalise in the second-half. Spurs would later beat Arsenal in the UEFA Super Cup, and lose in the FIFA World Club Cup Final to São Paulo.

Last season’s Champions League saw both Manchester clubs, Juventus, and AC Milan all stumble at the first knockout phase, with PSG, Valencia, Barcelona and Chelsea making up the final four. As you’ve read above, it was Chelsea who triumphed in Paris against PSG to become the third English winner in four years.

RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.