Chelsea have set the standard in the Premier League through the first five games but coming up in less than 24 hours are the team who have set the standard for the past five years, on the other side of the proverbial gap that needs to be closed.
Unlike Chelsea, Manchester City have been beaten already this season, but neither that nor the fact that we’ve three in a row against them will make tomorrow’s task any easier. Thomas Tuchel, once the narrative whipping boy to Pep Guardiola, knows that the tables can turn just as quickly once again, especially if we’re not at our absolute best (which we’ve not seen too often yet this season).
“Not so long ago there were a lot of voices who told me I don’t know how to beat Pep, so...anyway it’s not between me and him, we don’t play a match of tennis or a match of chess tomorrow.”
“[These] 50/50 matches little details decide them, small situations can give you the advantage and you need a bit of luck [...] I expect nothing other than a 50/50 match tomorrow and we want to fight hard to be the guys with the better outcome. We’ve done it several times now with this club, but we know what the input was, we know how much we suffered in these matches.”
“You really have to work for it and earn it. Don’t forget, you also need momentum and a bit of luck. Yes, genuine belief that you can do it is the most important thing in sports. On this kind of level, we have the belief that we can do it. We have the belief and we know well what it takes to have the possibility to win.
“I have the feeling that it does not take a miracle to win against Manchester City but it is absolutely necessary that we bring our best performance. This is tough enough and this is maybe the confidence it gives us. This is one of the biggest tests in European football. It’s on tomorrow, in our stadium and we feel ready.”
No miracles may be necessary, but good goalkeeping probably will be. Fortunately, Edouard Mendy is back from his rib injury and ready to play. Kepa Arrizabalaga has done well in his absence, but Mendy’s been one of the best in the world for the past season and change, and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Unfortunately, we do have a surprise absence as Mason Mount picked up a rare injury in the second half of Wednesday’s League Cup match. He joins entirely unsurprising absence Christian Pulisic, who’s still dealing with one of his un-rare injuries.
“Yes, [Mendy] is available and will start tomorrow. [...] Christian Pulisic is still out. For Mason Mount, it’s too soon. He has a minor injury from the Aston Villa game and while he made a big step, huge progress, it’s not enough to be ready for 12.30 tomorrow. [He] is very disappointed and I didn’t see it during the match. It happened during the second half, he played through the injury, finished the game and he was confident enough to take an important penalty in the shootout. It was a bit of a surprise.
“The steps that he is doing to recover are huge. There may even have been a possibility that he could have played if the game was a day later. It is a very small and minor injury. It is a disappointment for him and us because he is a player that we count on. It’s always the same; no matter the importance that Mason has, no matter how much we rely on him, the task is to find solutions without him and bring him back as soon as possible.”
Could we see another three-man midfield in Mount’s absence? Tuchel has been experimenting with a slightly different look from his standard 3-4-3 of last season, though he’s also had to make frequent half-time substitutions to help manage and improve our performances. That sort of tactical flexibility and adaptation may be necessary once again.
As Tuchel said, it probably won’t take a miracle, but it will take everything we got.
“Within every structure and line-up, there is a certain pattern. They put huge intensity in your in your half and there are certain patterns to defending and attacking which you need to be aware of.
“But at this level it is so important that we play with confidence, accept difficulties, play through pain and fatigue, and that we play a tough match and make a tough team performance. This is what we are up to. [And] you need to be very aware of all the solutions because if space is open, it’s only open for a blink of an eye.
“Do we need a miracle to compete? No, but we need our best, best performance.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London