Thomas Tuchel will be without the services of two Chelsea players for tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, a fixture he believes offers his side the chance to show they are at a similar level to the Premier League leaders.
The boss was in high spirits as he previewed a mouthwatering last-four clash at Wembley via Zoom. He spoke in detail about what he expects from the game and the influence of Pep Guardiola on him in his formative years as a manager, but the headline news he delivered regarded injuries.
‘We have the green light for N’Golo to play,’ confirmed Tuchel of the midfielder’s availability having come through 90 minutes against Porto in midweek.
‘We had three days between which makes a huge difference for him.
‘Mateo Kovacic is unfortunately still out, but feeling already better. Andreas Christensen is also out and cannot be in the squad.’
Tuchel was asked if Chelsea go into this game with Man City as equals
‘Yes and no. We have to accept there is a gap between us and Manchester City, but it’s important we accept it without making us too small.
‘For 90 minutes we are very self-aware and confident we can close the gap for one game. This is the target for tomorrow. We want to have momentum of the ball on our side, so we have to play at our top level, force things, and get a bit of luck.
‘English football, City’s game and our game is about intensity with and without the ball. I expect a very offensive match, a very physical match.
‘City have a clear style and DNA. They want to have possession and ball recoveries, and so do we. We have to be on point with our precision, passing and positioning if we want to hurt them. We need to be on it so we don’t allow easy chances or space between our lines. We have to play with courage and play adventurously.
‘It’s the right moment for us to face a challenge like this,’ added Tuchel.
‘I hope we catch the moments where we can make them suffer. Then, from day one of next season, we will hunt them and try to close the gap between us. This is the benchmark for me.’
Tuchel will come up against Guardiola for the first time as Chelsea boss
‘He’s been a huge influence on me. When he was coach at Barcelona, and I didn’t have a chance to know him personally, I was watching almost every game and was very impressed by the way they made success happen, the style, using Academy guys, ball possession.
‘The most impressive thing about this team was how they defended when the lost the ball. I learned a lot watching them and understanding the game more, how adventurous and brave you can approach a game.
‘It was a big, big lesson. I was coach in the academy and then becoming coach in Mainz. Almost every match was a lesson in those days. Later I had the opportunity to play against him, which was not always a pleasure! I drew a couple of games with Dortmund, so we came close, now it’s time we beat them, and the next chance is tomorrow.’