A goalless draw against Real Madrid tomorrow night would be enough for Chelsea to advance to the Champions League final for the first time in nine years, but Thomas Tuchel has explained why his team must not play for that result and should do everything to try and win the second leg outright.
Last week’s 1-1 draw in Madrid leaves this semi-final tie delicately poised ahead of the Stamford Bridge showdown. For Tuchel, answering the media’s questions before training at Cobham today, his strategy regarding Chelsea’s mindset is absolutely clear.
‘The challenge is to forget the first result and start at 0-0,’ he said.
‘We will clearly prepare to win the match, nothing else. We have no other way to prepare matches. I only know to encourage my team to go out and try and win it.
‘If we are at our best, it’s a no-brainer we go for a win. We want to win games. This club is about winning, this game is about winning, this competition is about winning.
‘So forget the first result, it’s not as important as people out there think. There is zero importance for preparation for the next match. It changes nothing how we start the match tomorrow, what we do in training, and zero influence in the talk we give to our players.
‘We will encourage them, we will demand from them, and we will be strong tomorrow at 8 o’clock as a group, as one club, with one big goal. This will only happen if we bring our best level to the pitch, and our best level is when we fight to win.’
Considering the success of our game-plan in Madrid, and the high-level performance of those in blue across the pitch, Tuchel was asked if he was going to name an unchanged starting XI. Understandably he remained coy about that!
‘I will make my decisions very late like I usually do,’ he explained.
‘I have my ideas in my mind, but I’m too long in the business that I also know anything can happen in the last training session, or a situation can even change my mind.
‘We need to wait. I need another sleep, and tomorrow I will decide on the line-up. I will give it to my team first, but what is sure is we played a good match with the line-up we had in the first game. It was a strong performance, and from that view there is no reason to do too many changes.’
And what of that final night’s sleep and the all-important pre-match preparation? Since arriving at Stamford Bridge in late January, the boss has often preferred for his players to spend the night before a game at home rather than in a team hotel. That will be the case again tonight.
‘In this moment we had a feeling afternoon training was good because it’s a late match tomorrow, and then let the players sleep at home and not go to the hotel,’ revealed Tuchel.
‘We will meet for lunch tomorrow. That gives us another seven-and-a-half hours together in the hotel. This gives me enough time for me to do meetings, and to have several hours of rest again, say if somebody had a bad night’s sleep.
‘In a season of almost 60 matches, and sleeping so much away from home and being so much in hotels, we try to reduce the time in hotels,’ added the boss.
‘Anything can have an influence though. Now we had three days in between games, so we had a lot of time to do recovery and take our time at Cobham to use the physios and masseurs.
‘If you only have two days in between games we prefer sometimes to go to a hotel so players can take their time in the evening to get massages and treatment.
‘When there are evening games, I had the feeling it will only increase the tension if we go to the hotel today. So let them go home, be a bit distracted, and we meet tomorrow for a walk, lunch and a meeting, and we will still have seven hours to prepare.’
One Blues side who have already reached this season’s European showpiece are Chelsea Women, following a fantastic victory over Bayern Munich on Sunday.
‘We followed it on TV and it’s a big achievement,’ smiled Tuchel.
‘We are very happy because in the end it’s one club and it’s a big thing to arrive in the final, for the first time for Chelsea Women. Hopefully they can finish the job. Big, big congratulations from us.’