A pair of 34-year-olds could be leading the line for Chelsea and Manchester United on Sunday, and having now managed both of them Thomas Tuchel is well placed to explain why Olivier Giroud and Edinson Cavani are still able to play on the biggest stage.
Giroud was our hero in midweek, spectacularly deciding the Champions League round-of-16 first leg against Atletico Madrid with a bicycle kick that will go down as one of our greatest European goals.
It was trademark Giroud. Has any Chelsea striker loved volleying the ball as much as him, and scored so many eye-catching efforts? Mark Hughes, who of course made his name at Man United, springs to mind in that department.
For Tuchel, now four weeks into the job at Stamford Bridge, Giroud’s masterpiece came as no surprise, but in his press conference today he did not guarantee the Frenchman a place in his team on Saturday.
‘He deserves to start all the time!’ acknowledged the boss.
‘He trains very well, he is a leader in the group, a big personality. Even when he has not started he deserves to start. I will not tell you now if we will let him play from the first minute!
‘He is as fit as ever and you can rely on his physical impact in the game. It’s hard to play against him. He is used to playing a high rhythm, used to playing in the Premier League, and this helps him stay in this high level.
‘He is very self-aware. He is in a fantastic mood every day, pushing everybody around him to win every little game we do in training, and being very positive with everybody around him. That didn’t change when he didn’t start for us or come off the bench.
‘This is what in the end makes the difference for good players and big personalities, because for sure Oli is a big personality.’
Tuchel was in charge of Cavani for two-and-a-bit seasons before the Uruguayan departed for Old Trafford in October. He made his Man United debut in the reverse fixture and has since scored seven goals, although is an injury doubt for Sunday’s big game.
Asked for an explanation for Cavani and Giroud’s longevity, Tuchel had this to say today.
‘Look at them and they switch shirts, they are totally fit. Their fitness is key. Oli is 100 per cent fit, zero body fat, and it’s the same as Edi.
‘Edi is a player like Oli who as a number nine is always concerned about the team, ready to suffer for the team and sacrifice for the team, to do runs and open spaces, always ready to defend with the whole team.
‘This is the characteristics of them both. In the box they are both excellent finishers. They have the experience, they don’t get nervous, they have the composure. Both top-quality strikers, and for me their fitness and self-discipline is key to their success.’
Off the field, Giroud is known for his dress sense, good looks and immaculate beard. In a lighter moment in today’s press conference, Tuchel had to admit it would be hard for him to match up with his senior striker in the fashion stakes!
‘I will try hard to close the gap style wise, but at the moment it’s not possible because I arrived with only one suitcase, so there is no chance for me!’