Chelsea may have been the favorites for Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal, but in a single-elimination knockout game, anything can happen. And Crystal Palace certainly weren’t going to go away without a fight. But Chelsea turned up the heat in the second half and eventually made our individual and collective quality count to the tune of 2-0, to reach yet another cup final and our fifth FA Cup final in the last six seasons.
While there should be no shortage of innate motivation in a Wembley semifinal, the team’s determination was great to see after the gut-punch of Madrid midweek. Head coach Thomas Tuchel gave credit for that to the players themselves, who apparently were more than eager to get back out there — perhaps a bit too eager, even, forcing Tuchel to dial back the intensity on the last day of training ahead of this FA Cup showdown.
“I can tell you on Friday the training quality was excellent and this was for me, the very best sign. It’s always the very best sign. And on Thursday, the players who didn’t play, the guys who were on the bench and we brought over some guys from the academy, they also trained with quality. The mentality, attitude, joy, quality, that was the best sign.
“It showed me the group takes care of itself and that we can focus on the process and what we can influence. This was excellent to see. On Friday, all the others came back, we trained with a full group and it was at such a high level and intensity, that I almost got scared that we did too much. We reduced training yesterday in terms of intensity because they were so hungry to be out there.
“They really enjoyed and it these are the best signals. If the players who have disappointment in them, if they take care about the quality, attitude and discipline in training, this makes a group special and this is what these guys do constantly. They put their ego aside and do what they love. It’s what I love and it feels like amateur football at some point, for the love of it, being out there and having a good time in training with a lot of quality. So we felt well prepared without having big talks about Madrid. What could I tell them that makes the pain go away? Nothing.”
Reaching the FA Cup final won’t make the pain of the Champions League go away either, but in a way, we don’t want that pain to go away anyway. Instead, we want to use it to grow and maintain the sort of determination and winning mentality that is hard to teach, but can be acquired if cultivated properly as a habit and an expectation. (And it’s one of the things we have to fight very hard to maintain with the new owners.)
“It was very, disciplined, very solid, very serious. [We] played very disciplined on the ball, they played very disciplined off the ball. It was not maybe the most exciting game to watch but it was challenging for us to keep the focus and discipline up. So this is where the credit goes to my team and why I’m proud: we did not lose the focus for a second.”
“[The final] will be another hard fight given the quality and run of form from Liverpool. It’s unbelievably difficult to beat them but this is what a cup final is about. It’s about winning and we need to try to find a way to beat them. [We] will try to find a way and if we do this, then we deserve it. And we want to deserve it.”
“[We] have another final and it gives us a lot of confidence. It’s a big emotional boost, of course. We are happy to have this final and we will give everything to be ready there.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
A chance to end the season with a major trophy. Just as it should be.