The Chelsea boss discusses returning to the Champions League final for the second year in a row and the influence beating Manchester City twice in a row has had on his current team…
For some members of the Chelsea party heading to Portugal this week to play the Champions League final, the experience will be very familiar with them having done so last year as well, but as Thomas Tuchel points out, there are significant differences too, and although there are benefits to be had from the 2020 experience, they do not apply across the board.
Tuchel was the manager and Thiago Silva the captain of the Paris Saint-Germain side that lost to Bayern Munich in Lisbon back in August, the game the culmination of an unusual conclusion to the Champions League due to Covid and the break in last season caused by the pandemic.
Now the German is the first coach to return to the final the very next season in charge of a different club.
‘I learned, of course, because I learn from every match,’ says Tuchel of the advantages from having contested the game previously.
‘Experience is a crucial thing in coaching and the more experience I have in coaching the better I can be. So I arrive smarter and more experienced for my personal second final, the same as for Tiago, but the situation is quite different because when we arrived last year there was not only one game to play. It was a 12-day tournament where we played two knockout games and then the final.
‘This now feels very different because we have come a long way of course with Frank [Lampard] through the group stage, and then through all the knockouts and this is a very different feeling.’
Tuchel also emphasises that playing in last year’s showpiece is not a shared experience for the current Chelsea team.
‘I'm pretty sure that Thiago has a big advantage to come back to the final and to have learned from the year before, but I'm not sure if this subject is any use to me because if I was a player, I'm not so sure if I would love to hear the story from my coach who was there last year with a different team. If we had it together as a team we would clearly use it, but now we arrive for the first time together.’
For Bayern Munich as the opposition last year, read Manchester City this time around – with the German champions swapped with the English champions, who Chelsea defeated in our last two meetings.
‘I don't know if it's an advantage but we are aware of it, that we closed the gap to Man City for two games and we did it in a very short period of time, and it's not so long ago,’ says Tuchel.
‘We know that in a final anything can happen. Luck is a huge part and the mental approach to it - who can handle the pressure and the little details. Who can release the pressure better with the first positive moments in the match and then adapt constantly to what happens. This is very important.
‘But those wins helped us a lot to bond, to grow and to arrive with a lot of confidence. Man City is the benchmark, again they are the champions and we are the guys who want to hunt them and want to close the gap. We are the guys to challenge them and this is what we're going to do in Porto.’