Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, with just two defeats to our name since his appointment, are still fighting on three fronts, including the semifinals of both the Champions League and the FA Cup. To reach the final in the latter however, we have the best team in England, Manchester City, standing in our way tomorrow.
And that fixture has become even more difficult with Mateo Kovačić and Andreas Christensen ruled out with injuries. The good news is that N’Golo Kanté has been cleared to play, after just three days of rest following the grueling Champions League second leg against Porto midweek.
"We have the green light for N’Golo to play.
"We had three days between which makes a huge difference for him. Mateo Kovacic is unfortunately still out, but feeling already better. Andreas Christensen is also out and cannot be in the squad."
Every time we play Manchester City, it’s a chance to check our progress and see if we’ve closed any of that proverbial gap that Antonio Conte started talking about after our last league title in 2017. Since then, City and Liverpool have been the two outstanding teams in the Premier League, with the latter falling away a bit this season but the former still continuing strong.
So that’s the goal once again, to close the gap to City. That “hunt” will have to wait until next season, really, but this game is a chance for a preview. One-off elimination games aren’t necessarily a test of a team’s overall quality, after all, but rather a test of determination, focus, commitment, and perhaps a little bit of luck.
"Yes and no. We have to accept there is a gap between us and Manchester City, but it’s important we accept it without making us too small. For 90 minutes we are very self-aware and confident we can close the gap for one game. This is the target for tomorrow. We want to have momentum of the ball on our side, so we have to play at our top level, force things, and get a bit of luck.
"English football, City’s game and our game is about intensity with and without the ball. I expect a very offensive match, a very physical match. City have a clear style and DNA. They want to have possession and ball recoveries, and so do we. We have to be on point with our precision, passing and positioning if we want to hurt them. We need to be on it so we don’t allow easy chances or space between our lines. We have to play with courage and play adventurously.
"It’s the right moment for us to face a challenge like this. I hope we catch the moments where we can make them suffer. Then, from day one of next season, we will hunt them and try to close the gap between us. This is the benchmark for me."
In addition to the gap between the teams, the match will also be a personal challenge for Tuchel, who’s yet to beat Pep Guardiola in five tries. The former Barcelona and Bayern boss is a gold standard inspiration for many a head coach, and Tuchel’s no different. But that just means he wants to win even more badly.
“He’s been a huge influence on me. When he was coach at Barcelona, and I didn’t have a chance to know him personally, I was watching almost every game and was very impressed by the way they made success happen, the style, using Academy guys, ball possession.
“The most impressive thing about this team was how they defended when the lost the ball. I learned a lot watching them and understanding the game more, how adventurous and brave you can approach a game.
“It was a big, big lesson. I was coach in the academy and then becoming coach in Mainz. Almost every match was a lesson in those days. Later I had the opportunity to play against him, which was not always a pleasure! I drew a couple of games with Dortmund, so we came close, now it’s time we beat them, and the next chance is tomorrow.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
Here's to Tuchel breaking his duck against Guardiola and guiding Chelsea to another domestic Cup final!