Thomas Tuchel has said that Chelsea stand no chance of reaching the Champions League final if they do not show enough belief against Real Madrid on Wednesday evening.
Although Chelsea hold a slender advantage before the second leg of their semi-final, they saw the danger of switching off at this level when they drew 1-1 in Spain last week. Tuchel’s side controlled the majority of the first half and were in a strong position after a potentially crucial away goal from Christian Pulisic, only for Karim Benzema’s sharp equaliser to keep the tie in the balance.
Benzema’s goal was a reminder of Madrid’s threat. Zinedine Zidane’s side will back themselves after winning this competition 13 times and Tuchel urged his players to seize the moment.
“The challenge will be to keep the intensity going throughout the whole match,” Chelsea’s manager said. “The pressure’s on. It’s the second leg, the decisive one, so to arrive with a certain level of belief and self-confidence is absolutely necessary. Otherwise we have no chance against a team like Real Madrid.
“It does not help so much if your coach is talking about it. We need to really feel it. If I talk about it it’s only because I’m sure they feel it and we can see it in the games – that the team are able to produce performances. They are aware of the challenge.”
Tuchel, who is still without Mateo Kovacic because of a hamstring injury, feels that Chelsea should not put themselves under unnecessary pressure by making the game feel like a special occasion.
“The club demands that we win any game, no matter who’s on the other side of the pitch,” he said. “This is what sharpens the mentality and this is our big strength: that we arrive as a team that is used to this pressure. This is a good pressure because if you make things too big then it helps nobody and it devalues your performance in any other game.”
Although a goalless draw would send Chelsea through, Tuchel is adamant that he will not try to be too clever with his tactics. “We have no other way to prepare than to encourage my team to try to win,” he said. “If we are at our best then it’s a no-brainer that we go for the win.
“This club is about winning. This game is about winning, this competition is about winning. Forget the first-leg result; it’s not as important as everyone thinks. It’s got zero importance in preparation for this match. We will demand from them to be as strong as possible from tomorrow from 8pm. The group has one goal: to overcome Real Madrid.”
The main question for Tuchel, who said that he had not started talks over a contract extension, is how to configure his attack. Although Kai Havertz is pressing for a start after scoring two fine goals when Chelsea tightened their hold on fourth place by beating Fulham 2-0 in the Premier League, Timo Werner could keep his spot despite spurning a glaring opportunity in the first leg.
“I think we all have to accept that sometimes strikers miss chances,” Tuchel said. “Not all the decisions are made yet. Don’t forget, to split the game between defence and attack is a nice thing to do, but you can get easily lost if you want to cut football into separate pieces. It’s a very complex sport.
“Timo, like everybody else who plays up front, has a huge intensity against the ball and has a huge part in that we are so strong defensively. It’s a team effort. Everybody needs to step up and take responsibility for scoring and for defending.”
Chelsea will need to show togetherness, especially with Eden Hazard set to start for the visitors. Hazard has struggled with injuries since joining Madrid two years ago but the former Chelsea winger will be determined to impress on his first appearance back at Stamford Bridge.
“Everyone at this club only has good things to say about Eden,” Andreas Christensen, the Chelsea centre-back, said. “He is probably going to be a big factor again. I think he has always been a player that brings a lot of happiness on the pitch. If he has that you will see his quality as well.”
Chelsea, who were one of the English clubs to pull out of plans to join a European Super League, have announced plans to have supporter input at board meetings from 1 July. The three supporter advisors, who will be picked through an election and selection process, will not have voting rights and will not participate in meetings relating to the team. Chelsea hope that the initiative will ensure that taking fan sentiment will influence the club’s decision-making process.
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