'We don't want to have the sympathy of the country today. We want to have the trophy.’
While not passing comment on whether he thinks it is something that should or should not have been said, Thomas Tuchel has admitted he understands why Pep Guardiola said earlier in the week that everyone in the country supports Liverpool.
Those words from the Manchester City manager were linked to the ongoing title race between his side and Jorgen Klopp’s, a contest that takes a break this weekend for Liverpool when they face Chelsea in today’s FA Cup final.
It is the second Wembley cup final meeting for these two teams this season, with only a penalty shoot-out separating the sides in Liverpool’s favour back in February. Tuchel, of course, knows the Reds’ boss well with their careers having followed similar paths in Germany.
‘Jurgen Klopp is the master of being the underdog,‘ declared Tuchel as he considered Guardiola’s viewpoint and today’s match.
‘He can talk you into Liverpool being an underdog against Villarreal and against Benfica, and that it is a miracle how they make it to even draw against them. He does it a lot of times and that's part of where the sympathy comes from.
‘There's nothing to be jealous of from my side. Klopp is a fantastic guy and a funny guy, one of the very, very best coaches in the world. And that's what he does.
‘When he trained Dortmund, the whole country [of Germany] loved Dortmund so now he trains Liverpool, the whole country loves Liverpool and it’s a big, big credit to him.
‘This is what you deal with when you play against them. It's always like this, but it's also the fun part. So if we are the bad guys, no problem. We don't want to have the sympathy of the country today. We want to have the trophy.’
Standing up for yourself
Tuchel went on to explain what he believes is needed to deal with the situation he outlined.
‘You have to stand up against it and just be self-confident and do your thing, and do not get influenced. I was the guy after him at Dortmund and it is not always easy.
‘But I have nothing but the biggest respect for him and what he's doing. He is at one with the supporters and with the club, and he is the face and charismatic leader of this development of this huge club.
‘It's a club with a huge reputation worldwide so my players have to step up against it and I have to step up against it. It's not only on the field but also on the sideline where you cannot get bullied by anybody.’
On the pitch, Chelsea have matched Liverpool this season with three draws before that one penalty shoot-out, and Tuchel has been asked whether the Merseysiders’ high line defensively provides a means to do them damage.
‘They allow chances, and we proved it,’ is his view.
‘We had big chances in the Carabao Cup final but it's their approach. Liverpool is the team that by far the most puts the strikers of the other team offside, so it's not easy.
‘They play this high line because there's always pressure on the ball, them working hard and counter-pressing and pressing. It’s not easy to exploit these spaces because you need perfect timing, you need the connection between the guy with the pass and the guy who receives it, and then you have to be precise and you're constantly under pressure.
‘So that's why they do it and they have a point, with the the amount of success they have with it. It's their style of playing and it's very difficult to find solutions but like always, you can find solutions if you have the perfect day - and we're hoping for that.’