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.
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Monday 22 June: Amini On Target at AFC U22

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Mustafa Amini scored for Australia today in a 3-1 win over Hong Kong in their opening match at the AFC U22 Championship in South Korea. Amini, who scored the third, spent last season on loan at 3.Liga winners Sandhausen but is set for release by Dortmund this summer.

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UEFA have made the draws for the opening two qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League in a lengthy ceremony at their Nyon headquarters.

The CL First Qualifying Phase of the former contains just four clubs – the champions of Andorra, Armenia, Faroe Islands, and San Marino. Those ties take place on 01 and 08 July, with the winners joining 32 other clubs in the Second Qualifying Phase.

74 clubs feature in the Europa League First Qualifying Round, which features an all-Ireland tie between Crusaders and Sligo Rovers. Fortuna Düsseldorf are the highest-ranked club at this stage, and have been drawn against Andorran side Unió Esportiva Sant Julià. Ties take place 02 and 09 July.

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Serdar Tasçi has joined Paris Saint-Germain in a £12.25m deal, after spending his entire career at VfB Stuttgart. The 28 year-old centre-back has been capped 14 times by Germany, and won the Bundesliga title in 2007.

Titanbet’s Champions League Infographic

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Titanbet sent us this awesome infographic about tonight’s UEFA Champions League Final between Barcelona and Juventus, and it was too good not to publish. Thanks to the team at @TitanBet for sharing it with us.

In RTFM’s world, Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in this year’s Final, but who’ll win in Berlin tonight? We’re going for 3-0 Barcelona. You can view the full-size version by clicking on the image below:

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Champions League: Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham

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Chelsea have lifted their second UEFA Champions League trophy after a 2-1 win over ten-man Tottenham Hotspur in Istanbul tonight, their second success in four seasons.

After a goalless and largely uninspiring first-half, the game exploded into life after the break with Romelu Lukaku having a shot cleared off the line within a minute of the restart, before Oriol Romeu fired inches wide of giving Chelsea the lead.

The deadlock was broken in the 53rd minute when Ashley Cole brought down Lucas Leiva out wide. Antonio Valencia curled in the free-kick, and Sandro beat Cole to the cross and headed past Petr Cech.

Chelsea responded immediately by bringing on Kevin De Bruyne, and thirteen minutes later his wonderful strike drew them level as he cut in from the right wing, and as the Spurs defenders backed-off, he curled the equaliser into the top corner. A flurry of yellow cards followed as Chelsea pushed for a winner, but extra-time beckoned.

After his second-half high, Sandro’s night was going to turn sour after he picked up his second booking of the game when he tripped Eden Hazard and saw red mid-way through the first period of extra-time.

With just three minutes to play, De Bruyne whipped in a cross for Juan Mata who was steaming in towards the six-yard box. Having just been named man-of-the-match by the PA system, WorldSoccer’s Footballer of the Year Lucas Leiva challenged Mata for the ball and inadvertently diverted it past his own ‘keeper to give Chelsea victory.

It’s the first time in over thirty years that English clubs have won the top two continental trophies in the same season, following Manchester City’s victory over Olympiakos last week. Liverpool lifted the European Cup, while Spurs won the UEFA Cup in 1984.

Chelsea Blow Barca Away, Spurs Await!

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Chelsea smashed their way into the UEFA Champions League Final against city rivals Tottenham Hotspur after a rampant 5-1 victory over Barcelona at Stamford Bridge tonight.

Trailing 0-1 from last week’s first leg in Spain, Chelsea took just ten minutes to draw level on aggregate when Juan Mata arrived late at the far post to turn home a César Azpilicueta cross. The home side were on the attack throughout the rest of the half but couldn’t find a second.

That came fifteen minutes after the interval when Fernando Torres headed home another Azpilicueta cross after André Ayew was strong down Chelsea’s left to keep the ball alive, out-muscle Muniesa, and find Azpilicueta on the overlap.

Five minutes later André Ayew had the chance to extend the lead when he was tripped by Jordi Alba. He took the spot-kick himself, but Victor Valdes went to his left and pushed away the penalty.

With 73 minutes on the clock, David Villa was given too much time and space in the box and he slotted home a cross from Alexis Sánchez that gave Barcelona the valuable away-goal that would send them through if the score stayed the same.

The parity lasted just four minutes as John Terry came forwards at a corner and he headed home Eden Hazard’s delivery to put Chelsea 3-1 up, and back in front on aggregate (3-2).

Barcelona pushed forwards in the last ten minutes looking for a goal that would put them into the Final, but were undone when they didn’t clear a Chelsea corner that was whipped back across the box for Hatim Ben Arfa to drill home at the far post.

There was still time for a fifth as André Ayew finally troubled the scorers two minutes into stoppage time when he had a 20-yard run at goal before finishing past Valdes from the edge of the box.

Chelsea will play Tottenham Hotspur in Istanbul on 30 May.

Spotkicks Send Spurs Through to First Final

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Hugo Lloris was carried aloft on the shoulders of his team-mates after saving Ilkay Gündogan’s spot-kick to send Tottenham Hotspur through to their first UEFA Champions League Final after beating Manchester United on penalties.

Spurs dominated the opening 45 minutes, not allowing United a single shot on goal during the first-half, but they couldn’t find a way past in goal as they desperately tried to claw themselves back into the tie after losing 0-2 at Old Trafford last week.

The breakthrough finally came six minutes after the break when Johnny Evans bundled over Gareth Bale in the box, giving away a penalty and picking up a caution for his efforts. Up stepped Emmanuel Adebayor who drilled the ball low to David De Gea’s bottom left.

With twenty minutes to go, Bale – who had been denied twice by De Gea – got on the end of a deep Pablo Armero cross but saw his fine header come back off the upright with De Gea well-beaten.

Inside the final ten minutes, Jose Sosa was denied by the fingertips of the United ‘keeper and the atmosphere around White Hart Lane changed as the visitors were clinging on. The corner was cleared, but Bale soon won a second when he had an effort deflected wide.

Armero swung the corner in to the six-yard box from the Spurs left, where it was met by the head of Sandro and whistled past the man on the line and into the back of the net to level the tie on aggregate.

Half-hour of extra-time couldn’t separate the sides and it went to the dreaded shootout. Spurs went first and the first five penalties went in before Lloris saved from Rodrigo, but Mario Mandzukic blazed over the bar and Andriy Yarmolenko squared it at three-all after four each.

WorldSoccer Player of the Year Lucas Leiva stepped-up and put Spurs in the driving seat, leaving Ilkay Gündogan with the unenviable task of having to score to keep Manchester United in it. He went for power straight down the middle, but Lloris stayed on feet and plucked the ball out of the air to send Spurs through to the final in Istanbul.

Gündogan looked devastated after his miss, as many were tipping him to become only the fifth player to win the competition in consecutive years with two different clubs after he won with Borussia Dortmund last year. Incidentally, he scored BVB’s first penalty in their shootout win over Barcelona.

They’ll play the winners of tomorrow night’s Semi-Final between Chelsea and Barcelona. The Spanish club lead 1-0 from the First Leg, with Alexis Sánchez scoring late-on at the Nou Camp last week.

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