Thomas Tuchel has good reason to be pleased with parts of today’s first leg semifinal match against Real Madrid, which saw Chelsea score the opening goal in a strong first half showing via Christian Pulisic. However, a (wonder)goal from Benzema’s bicycle kick gave the hosts the equalizer still at the initial half, and the Blues were unable to show the finishing touches to expand their lead in the remainder of the encounter.
Chelsea’s strong showing early in the first half can be attributed to Madrid’s initial setup, with the hosts countering our tactical setup with a 3-5-2 of their own. And while Tuchel admitted he expected Zinedine Zidane to employ the Spaniard’s tried and test 4-3-3, he also had the tactical tweaks at the ready for these kind of surprises.
“We knew that they finished the last game and against Barcelona in a 3-5-2, we knew that there was a possibility that maybe they would switch their formation to adapt to our formation. In the end, I thought they would stay in their 4-3-3 which they play in 90-95% of their matches.
“So we prepared for that 4-3-3 and when we saw the line up, we had a quick talk in the dressing room to slightly change the moment against the ball with the two strikers and the three in the middle, where to adapt. Where we can push out but it was only defensively and offensively it didn’t change much.
“We wanted to impose our style and wait for what we would find on the pitch, the spaces that we predicted. It was pretty much like that so it is like this sometimes. Sometimes you have to adapt and the team did this very well. I am happy with how we tried it, we gave everything and got more than a deserved 1-1 and we will try again next week.”
Chelsea got off to a fast start likely due to the comfort levels they have gained under this system in the weeks since Tuchel’s arrival. Christian Pulisic’s goal in the 13th minute was the definitive reward to Chelsea’s strong showing from kickoff; but that was not the first big chance of the match. Just a couple minutes prior Mason Mount and Pulisic combined to set up Timo Werner for a chance on goal. However his shot was stopped by former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Tuchel understandably feels like a big opportunity to swing the momentum of the semifinal further towards Chelsea’s favor had been missed due to our failure to come away from the first half with more goals, as the second half was not as intense (or as favorable) to grant us good goalscoring chances.
“I have a feeling that we should have won the first half and we deserved to win the first half, maybe we could have decided this match very, very early in the first half an hour when we were playing so, so strong.
“Second half was a bit of a tactical match and you could feel that we only had two days in between two away games. Both games were very demanding physically and mentally so you could feel the decision making, some ball losses, acceleration, that we suffered from it today.
“One more day [recovery] would have been great for us but it was not like this so now is the challenge to, first of all enjoy a free day for the group and then stay focused on the next challenge, go step by step.
“Next week we have to face another challenge against Real Madrid, it will be another tough one because it is the Champions League semi final, nothing is sure. It is half time and we need to fight for every centimetre and advantage that we want to have, we need to fight and to deserve it.”
-Thomas Tuchel, Source: Football.London
Up next for Chelsea is Fulham this weekend for the Premier League, before the Champions League second leg semifinal at Stamford Bridge against Madrid. And judging by Eden Hazard’s level of fitness during his cameo as a substitute tonight, the stars seem to be aligning to his return to the pitch he once called home — only this time through the away locker room.