Thomas Tuchel believes starting a new Champions League campaign as the defending champions does not diminish Chelsea’s motivation to triumph again in European football’s biggest club competition because winning in elite-level sport is an addictive feeling.
Ahead of our group stage getting underway at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night against Zenit St Peterburg, the boss was understandably asked to reflect on the achievement of lifting the trophy in Porto back in May and whether the experience had changed the mentality of himself or his players.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Tuchel explained the key difference between winning and losing those big games, citing the added belief and togetherness it can generate among the group as particularly key factors in following success with success.
‘In the end, nothing is like winning,’ he said. ‘I reached a final with my team [Paris Saint-Germain] the season before and I had the feeling that it was a big achievement but to not do the last step is a huge difference when you realise what it means when you do it.
‘It’s about the joy and experience, the confidence that your team gets by winning it. I experienced this for the first time when we were able to win the German title with Mainz Under-19s and I was in charge as the head coach. We had the feeling that to qualify for a semi-final and final was already a big achievement but when you do the last step, it really changes everything,
‘The most important thing is not to look back but to keep the hunger because that feeling creates a hunger for more and more. It’s addictive. This game is about winning because winning changes your feeling, it changes your work atmosphere in the building and gives you natural confidence.
‘At the same time, it’s absolutely necessary to forget it and start from scratch, to show this mentality again. This is what I demand from myself and from everybody else around, that we don’t change in terms of hunger. We will have this experience together forever and we can create a bond out of it but it’s about looking ahead in sport and taking up the challenges which are coming and the next one is tomorrow.’
The Blues have added the firepower of Romelu Lukaku to our attack since that triumphant night in Portugal, with the Belgian having hit the ground running with three goals in as many matches at the start of his second spell at Stamford Bridge.
After hearing his striker speak about the emotion of finally netting at the Bridge, Tuchel reflected on the importance of getting goals and confidence in the bag early on in the campaign.
‘He dreamt about it since being a little boy and now he has the opportunity to come back as the number nine, the go-to guy up front and be the one to help the team with goals,’ continued Tuchel.
‘He’s not shy of speaking out loud so we are very lucky that we can share the experience with him because he’s a nice guy and a tough competitor.
‘We all know how important it is to have a good start for strikers and to not wait too long for their goals so we’re very happy that he helps us with goals and he has this experience so early in the season. Hopefully he can continue tomorrow to score and be decisive for us.’