Chelsea may have won the (“away”) first leg of our Champions League quarterfinal encounter against FC Porto last week, but the balance of the match was a lot closer than the 2-0 scoreline might suggest. The Blues “suffered” for significant stretches of the game, and that’s without Porto having their two leading goalscorers available.
Of course, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the scoreline, and Chelsea thus do hold a fairly comfortable lead. That gives us a bit of cushion but not nearly enough to truly feel comfortable. So, the usual qualities that good teams must show have to be very much on display. We cannot be afraid of it; we must rise to the occasion, which is precisely what Tuchel wants from this players: to expect a tremendous fight.
“It’s a little bit like the first leg, up and down. You won’t control a whole half, maybe five to 10 minutes. And then maybe the momentum shifted a little bit. This is maybe what we had to accept against them, and maybe what we have to accept against them again. But don’t worry, it’s normal.
“In all their CL matches, against City, against Juventus, they have shown that. They are a proud club, a very emotional team, this is what we have to accept. And that we should not over-expect from ourselves, or lose our momentum, because these moments will come.”
While in this respect we must look to the past (the first leg) to help guide our future (the second leg), in a more general sense, what’s happened before doesn’t really mean anything.
Getting to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14 is great, but the only thing that matters now is getting into the semifinals. We can worry about what might come later, both in this competition and potentially other competitions, but the only way to address these challenges is to take them one by one. Full focus on the here and now.
“It doesn’t help to reflect too much about it, we have to play these games but it’s most important for me to be fully focused on what we do, and forget that we have already a result, and forget what we did at Crystal Palace because it’s the past.
“There’s nothing less interesting in football than the past. Everything that counts in football is the next match, the next competition. So full focus on tomorrow, we can be absolutely self-confident, because we have a strong squad, the squad can rely always on their work-rate, their intensity, we are always a tough team to play against.”
It’s easy to overthink and overanalyze — and overreact — but the only thing that we can control is how we behave, how we play, and how we react to what’s happening in the moment. The margins are so small at the top level of the professional game that often the thing that wins games is mentality, commitment, and focus.
Big word that, focus, and we’ll need it bigly.
“Everybody can wreck their heads about it, but we are there to play football, and this is the target, and this is the challenge actually – to keep focus. [...] It’s important to be fully focused on us, play the best game possible again because this increases all chances of a result.”
“This is the challenge to not lose your head. I hope we embrace the challenge, I hope we have the feeling this is a match everyone waits for since they were a little kid. Everybody wants to play Champions League, everybody wants to be part of it, everybody wants to have a decisive match. But forget the result, we have to deliver. If we don’t deliver, you cannot expect any results.
“We should rely on what we do well and what we do best, and we will not change our approach to the game because of the result we had last week. We have a certain way of playing and we will try to bring it to the best levels, because the game will ask many questions that we cannot think about right now.
“And we have to be free in our minds to react to the situations on the pitch.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Free your mind, and the rest will follow — it was En Vogue 30 years ago, and it’s true just the same today.