It is now 14 games unbeaten for Thomas Tuchel as Chelsea manager with a first-ever trip to Wembley Stadium to look forward to as a result of Sunday afternoon’s 2-0 victory over Sheffield United in our FA Cup quarter-final.
That scoreline, with the goals an own-goal and a late strike from Hakim Ziyech, also means the Blues have equalled the club record for consecutive clean sheets, matching the seven in row set in our very first season in 1905/06 and equalled in 2003/04 and twice in 2005/06.
However, on this occasion, Tuchel feels his team were fortunate to register another shut-out as Sheffield United came into the game strongly in the second half, although there are understandable reasons why the Blues were not in full control.
‘I could feel a bit after the game against Atletico [which Chelsea won on Wednesday] that we were a bit tired and I could feel that it was a huge effort also mentally against Atletico,’ Tuchel revealed.
‘After that it was a big relief and then there were a lot of team changes made by me. Then you have players leaving right now for international duty so there are a lot of things to organise, many unclear situations, so there was a moment yesterday when we prepared the match and again today where I did not feel 100 per cent comfortable or sure we could continue on the same level.
‘So I spoke to the team before and said let’s not over-expect from ourselves. Do a serious performance to control the match, work hard for it, and take the little details seriously.
‘The first half was okay, the second half after a chance for Christian Pulisic to finish the game which we didn’t take, we lost control, we lost the concentration, we lost the momentum. For many minutes we suffered, we allowed two big chances and after that we were lucky to escape with the clean sheet, but there are a lot of circumstances to explain it. That is absolutely okay after 14 matches.
‘The target this week was to go to the quarter-final [in the Champions League] and to Wembley, and the team achieved both targets so a big well done to them.’
Having not visited Wembley before in any capacity, Tuchel finds the prospect of being there for the FA Cup semi-final very exciting and a big personal target met, but there is plenty happening before then, including the international break for the next two weeks.
Mendy and Abraham availability update
The boss revealed that Edouard Mendy will not be going on international duty due to a dental operation which has been planned for this window, and he also spoke about it being a chance for Tammy Abraham to recover from the ankle injury which has dogged the striker of late, after a setback as recently as this weekend.
‘He quit training yesterday after only five minutes, during the warm-up,’ Tuchel reports, ‘so there was no chance that he could join the squad. It is still more or less the same injury. He had a bit of a re-injury in a training accident, exactly on the same spot where the first injury was so he is in pain, and there was no chance he could join us today.
‘Firstly he needs to be fit and then secondly take it step by step to good training performances and fight his way back.
‘The way back for him then is to maybe be a substitute and to be hungry to show quality in training. Now is not the moment to worry about being in the first 11 because he is out now unfortunately for too many games, and it is absolutely not his fault.
‘He is hungry to come back and tries all the time but this is the risk also in pushing the players to be back as soon as possible. It was an accident in training because we thought he is already in the squad today and it is nobody’s fault. Now it is kind of a restart and I hope he can use the two weeks to get fit again. This is the most important thing right now.’