It’s perhaps good that we will have a had couple extra days between Tuesday night’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg in Madrid and Sunday afternoon’s FA Cup semifinal against Crystal Palace at Wembley. The physical and mental effort spent against Real Madrid was considerable, and despite the 3-2 win, our ultimate elimination has certainly left an emotional mark — one that we’ve now had a chance to digest before gearing up for yet another massive knockout game.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel isn’t worried about the squad’s confidence or mentality following that win-but-defeat, and we can certainly ensure that it doesn’t become (more) season-defining by taking care of business against Palace.
“Confidence-wise, I think it is a huge boost, but still, it is a disappointment to go out of the Champions League at the quarter-final. It’s not like a big drama in this kind of way [but] it is a weird feeling [and] it still tastes bitter.
“[But] we bounce back from the two results and two performances against Brentford and Madrid at home, we won both games after that. This is a big knockout game coming at Wembley, which is, in my opinion, a good thing because is a huge reward coming with it. So it is not a normal game in Premier League to collect points but straight away another knockout match.
“As you know, I think the players are also a bit in between. We haven’t talked too much about it with them. We have had training, some training time now, before a Sunday match. We will use it to sweat it out, digest it fully and be ready for Sunday.”
And we’re certainly going to need to be ready. Our last match against Palace, back in February, was decided by a lone Hakim Ziyech goal in the penultimate minute. Patrick Vieira’s side have been solid all season, and were it not for a few too many draws, they might have been in with a shout for a European place, even (well, Europa Conference).
Tuchel obviously expects them to be up for the challenge of reaching just their third FA Cup final in their history, both mentally and tactically.
“High level of energy, commitment — they are playing throughout the season in the same way. It is a big belief, a real team effort, very close to the coach. [Vieira’s] done a fantastic job, created a very energetic team full of individual quality and very, very dangerous counter-attacking team. A committed group, very tough to play against in the league and will be a tough one.
“For us and for them, it is a huge opportunity to play at Wembley. We need to be very well prepared to control the counter-attacks, the individual quality, the dribbles and play with the same level of intensity.”
One big miss for Palace will be Conor Gallagher, who’s ineligible to play against his parent club, just as he was ineligible to play against us in our two Premier League meetings.
It’s an unfortunate situation for the young midfielder, but rules are rules and it’s our advantage to not bend them.
“I had the chance to speak to Conor, and I could also see his frustration. [...] I apologised because I know how competitive he is and I like him a lot. I know his character very well, and was a pleasure to have him here in pre-season.
“This is the way it is. We play to win the game, and the rules were clear when we made the loan. I can totally understand Patrick Vieira and the disappointment of Conor, but these are the rules when we did the loan, and we don’t want to suffer from our rules.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
So that adds a bit of spice to what already could be dramatic proceedings.
Here we go again!