Tuchel hails unbelievable team effort, praises decisive Ziyech and Kante, and claims ‘nobody will want to play us’ in quarter-finals

After taking Chelsea through to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in seven years, Thomas Tuchel was full of praise for collective spirit and individuals proving decisive as we beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 on the night…

Hakim Ziyech and Emerson Palmieri added to Olivier Giroud’s sublime first-leg winner in Bucharest to defeat the La Liga leaders for the second time in three weeks, aided by our 11th clean sheet under the German head coach.

The result also extended Tuchel’s unbeaten start to life at Stamford Bridge to 13 matches, the longest undefeated run to start a managerial reign in the club’s history.

‘It was a very good performance,’ said Tuchel after the game. ‘We go through and that was deserved. It was an unbelievable team effort from the guys on the pitch, the guys on the bench and even the guys in the stands!

‘It was a really big win for us and a deserved win. The amount of effort and intensity from the team in both legs was outstanding and incredible. We missed four key players but everybody else stepped up so I’m very happy.

‘There were moments when we were excellent with the ball, we had brave and courageous defending, and adapted to any system the opponent played. It was a big win, a deserved win and I’m super happy for my players.’

The boss was particularly pleased with the contribution of Ziyech, whose goal settled nerves…

‘He played today because he did it with Ajax and he came to a semi-final. He has good experience in the Round of 16, he knows how it feels to arrive in the knockout round and go through to the last eight.

‘The second reason he played is because he deserved it and the third is we missed Mason Mount and we wanted to replace his work-rare and intensity with Hakim because we knew we faced a midfield of three with a lot of quality. Maybe he suffers a bit to adapt to our style because he loves to play creative and he needs to adapt to the structure but he gives a very reliable work-rate for the team.’

Kante was named Man of the Match…

‘I never know the age of my players because I just judge from their performances. If you play with NG, you always play with minimum half a man more because he gives an intensity volume that is simply outstanding and this is unique. It’s a pleasure to be coach for him and it’s a big gift for me.

‘A guy so humble and don’t underestimate his quality in passing, dribbling and escaping the pressure. There are still things to improve with him but it’s fantastic to have him.’

Atletico had a penalty appeal in the first half that left the boss a little concerned…

‘I haven’t seen it back but I think Azpi got a little bit frightened because the ball was a little bit shorter than he anticipated. I did not see it but I must admit I was a little bit frightened on the sidelines.’

Tuchel also credited a togetherness among his players as the reason behind their excellent form…

‘The guys play with a special bond and results like this give you a certain edge and glue to achieve special things. You can only do it with a special atmosphere. I’m pretty sure nobody wants to play against us in the last eight. It will be a big step but there’s no need for us to be afraid.’

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