Many of his players may lack Champions League knockout experience but the professionalism, effort and game management on display from Chelsea against Porto tonight delighted Thomas Tuchel.
Many of his players may lack Champions League experience but the professionalism, effort and game management on display from Chelsea against Porto tonight delighted Thomas Tuchel.
Seven of our starting XI had not played in a Champions League quarter-final tie before this one, but they showed savviness and determination to overcome a Porto side who shocked Juventus in the previous round.
It all means we have a semi-final in the world’s elite domestic competition to look forward to against either Real Madrid or Liverpool, with Tuchel saying he will enjoy watching the second leg of that tie tomorrow safe in the knowledge we have already booked our spot in the last four.
‘We accepted what was needed tonight and I think we deserved to go through,’ assessed Tuchel.
‘It was a tough game, perhaps not the best to watch on the television, but from the sidelines I could see a very fast and intense match.
‘It was a tough fight and we had to work hard at times to escape the pressure. They played in a very fluid and aggressive way. They showed that they can change positions all the time, they come up behind and overlap and then, in the next instance, they can underlap. So we had to be ready to adapt to their many movements.
‘With every minute that went by, we did that even better and overall I am very happy with how we defended and managed this difficult game.
‘There was a lot of work to do without praise; there was nobody here to cheer you for a tackle. A lot of hard work in secret was done, and that is why I am very happy.’
Tuchel underlined the professionalism of his young side’s performance
‘It felt like we weren’t in danger on the bench, but I was still nervous because football can change. It can be a crazy goal, a deflection or a bicycle kick, it can happen no matter how good you defend.
‘It’s very hard to play your best game against Porto. It’s part of your performance to not let your opponents perform. This is what they do, and this what we do also. Today was a day to hang in, show the effort and intensity and team spirit we needed.
‘If you don’t have a lot of experience and you have a young team, it’s the moment to be together and fight hard. We deserved a clean sheet again, we deserved a clean sheet at Crystal Palace, and this was the key.
‘When you work hard, when you sweat a lot, you cannot be nervous. We encouraged everybody to accept we play hard games like this almost every three days at this intense level.’
Mateo Kovacic missed out through injury
‘Yesterday in training he got a muscle injury in his hamstring after 20 minutes, more or less out of nothing. He is for sure out for the game against City as well, which is a big loss.
‘I was very sad for him. We don’t have so many experienced players who have played Champions League many times. When the anthem plays he is relaxed and at the same time he is a hard fighter.
‘Everybody is happy to have him around so we did it also for him today.’
N’Golo Kante came through the 90 minutes unscathed and was excellent in midfield
‘We took a little risk with N’Golo but this was the moment to put him on the field and hope he had the energy for 90 minutes. N’Golo is incredible. He is like one-and-a-half or two players. Everyone who sees him for the first time loves him. All my family love him when they watch our games now!
‘It’s so nice to have him. He wins so many balls and gives everybody confidence. He did perfect and now it’s time to recover good.’
Another huge test awaits in the form of Real Madrid or Liverpool
‘We have arrived here with a very young team, but we want to turn that around. What a young team can always do is fight, run, hang in there and take it like an adventure. Hopefully we stay adventurous and brave enough to accept the challenge.
‘It’s a big step to be in a semi-final. It’s a very big achievement. We are not used to being there, and once you are there you play for the final. We need every minute to learn and grow, and you cannot improve without these big experiences. We are doing that while we are playing it.’