A hard-fought victory over Manchester City on the weekend has sent Chelsea up to third, one point above Leicester City, while other favourable results have helped increase the gap to six points over fifth-place West Ham.
A top-four finish looks much more likely now, with just three games left in the Premier League season. But the job is not done and the Blues take on mid-table Arsenal at home tomorrow night, where another win would get us ever closer to being able to rest some key players (and avoid injuries) before the Champions League final on May 29.
Talking of injuries, Tuchel was pleased to learn that Andreas Christensen's injury is not too serious while fellow hamstring injury victim Mateo Kovačić is getting closer once again after suffering a setback recently — with a return for the FA Cup final a possibility.
"Kova isn't ready for tomorrow. The personal race is on to try to make it to Wembley.
“Andreas' was better than we feared. We hope he'll be back for one of the two Leicester games. It will be a tough one but the game isn't finished for him hopefully. [...] We were a bit relieved yesterday when the images were given and they what weren’t we expected. We have realistic hopes the season isn’t finish and that’s very important.”
The fixture pileup and the injury to Kovačić left Tuchel with no choice but to play Billy Gilmour in the double-pivot against Fulham and Manchester City in the Premier League. For a young player who's been so short of game-time, Billy G gave two good performances, earning some praise from the head coach.
“We have an eye on the players workload and the statistics we have, who is overloaded and from that we will decide who has a risk of injury. Everyone who isn’t a risk will be available for the game. It’s not to manage the game on Saturday as we are in the middle of a race. It’s not the time to judge games.”
"Billy Gilmour has had to step up because we play with a double six. We were rotating between N'Golo, Jorgi and Kova but once we missed Kova for some weeks it was time for Billy to step up and I was pleased he could when needed.”
Chelsea appointed Tuchel in late January to save the season from a downwards spiral that showed little signs of rejuvenation while a lot was still to play for at that point. Tuchel has not only steadied the ship but also catapulted the Blues to our first Champions League final since 2012, led us back to the FA Cup final, put Chelsea in third with three games to go, all the while pulling off tactical masterclasses against top coaches in the game.
Safe to say the gaffer has done an incredible job already — though he knows that winning something substantial will be the true reward of a successful season.
"Maybe they didn't expect but they didn't say we wouldn't make it. They made a change because they maybe felt they needed a change but they were convinced by the quality and mentality by the team.
"We know very well that you need a little bit of luck and momentum and we have caught all that. We are in the middle of the race for top four and reached two finals. It wasn't the demand of the club and the expectation wasn't to fulfil all categories but nobody told me they didn't care about these competitions.
"If you play with Chelsea, you play the competition to win it. This club is now built to win games and competitions consistently. This is what we agreed on in the first minute of our talks. We haven't won anything now and it doesn't help if we talk about it. We have to play to win the finals and finish in the top four."
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
The message is clear as always. Play to win!