Thomas Tuchel has identified ensuring his players go into Sunday’s match against Tottenham Hotspur in the correct frame of mind as crucial to securing a third win over our London rivals this month.
He is hoping his squad will be slightly refreshed going into this match after giving them two days off this week to recover from the fatigue, mental and physical, from our exhausting run of fixtures over the winter period.
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In our last match, a 1-1 draw at Brighton on Tuesday evening, our head coach felt a drop in concentration from his side for the first time since he joined Chelsea, preventing us from playing at our best, although he insists he doesn’t want to overreact given it was a one-off.
‘It was just for one match, which was in Brighton,’ said Tuchel. ‘Not for a couple of matches because we had a couple of good matches before and good results also. Even if we did not have the result, the match was good and the mindset and the attitude was always on the level where it needs to be.
‘But after the loss against Manchester City and the gap opened up enormously for us and playing two days later more or less, on a Tuesday again, I could see and feel from myself and from the team that some emotions took over.
‘Maybe it was frustration, maybe it was disappointment, but it was hard for us on this particular day to reach our top level as a team, whatever the top level means on this particular day because we did not expect in general that we would play an overwhelming exciting match, because there was a very strong opponent who has a certain style of play and makes you underperform some times.
‘But this was the very first time, so when it happens for the first time you should not make a bigger deal out of it than it is. We had our two days off now and two days to prepare to be ready on Sunday.’
Nevertheless, it is still an area Tuchel is determined to improve and ensure there is no repeat of that drop when we host Tottenham at Stamford Bridge this weekend, facing them for the third time in January after back-to-back wins across the two legs of our Carabao Cup semi-final.
That is doubly important given the confusing situation near the top of the Premier League table, as one of the consequences of other teams having so many matches cancelled due to Covid is that those around us can have several games in hand. With Spurs eight points behind but having played four less than us so far, the German pointed out they could quickly become a direct competitor for us in the table.
‘It’s a big game,’ he added. ‘Of course we can do our mathematics and it’s strange to look at the fixtures and see teams competing for the same area of the table and having four games less. So this can lead you to a wrong impression that you are comfortably ahead, which you are not. So we have to make sure that this stays like this and the best chance is to win against direct opponents.
‘It’s a London derby, it’s a big rivalry. We know this and we play them now three times, it’s the third time in a very short period of time, so I think they know what we do, we know what they do and things are clear. We managed to beat them twice and we will do everything to beat them a third time.’
Tuchel also believes the fact Tottenham are becoming such familiar opponents could have an influence on this game, with the likelihood of either team surprising the other or succeeding with any mind games severely reduced.
That is why he feels the result could hinge on whether his team arrive at the Bridge with the right attitude to repeat the performances which have already given us two victories over Tottenham this month.
‘The last results in the last games it was like this and we have to make sure that it is a third time again like this. We play now three matches in such a short time, which is pretty unusual normally, and that’s why I think more or less they know what we do and we know what they do and it’s on us again to show up in games like this.
‘They come from a late victory that gives them a boost, we come from two wins in the Carabao Cup which should give us some confidence when we play the match. It’s not about having whatever advantages and being philosophical about it. It’s about delivering and we have to be in the right mood with the right attitude to deliver a top performance.’