Thomas Tuchel has warned Chelsea that they will be in danger of squandering their commanding 2-0 lead over Porto if they lose themselves in dreams of winning the Champions League.
Given Tuchel’s history in this competition, it is unsurprising he is taking nothing for granted before returning to Seville for the second leg of his side’s quarter-final against Porto on Tuesday night. Chelsea’s manager famously lost from this position two years ago, going out in the last 16 to a weakened Manchester United on away goals, and knows from bitter experience the tie is not over yet.
In Tuchel’s view Chelsea, who are also gearing up for their FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City on Saturday, must focus on playing their natural game after winning last week’s away leg. The German does not want his players dwelling on the past, even though he is in a rush to collect his first piece of silverware after arriving at Stamford Bridge in January.
“If you win consecutive games of course you can win titles,” Tuchel said. “Chelsea has the culture, history and mentality to do so. I am here to win games and titles. That is what I demand of myself, so why should we now say anything different? That we want to win in five years or three years or two years? Now is the time.
“But there is no match other than the next game and no other obstacle to overcome than Porto tomorrow. We should not get lost in dreams and hopes and speeches and whatever. We are here to focus on reality and hopefully after tomorrow we can talk about the semi-final.”
Although Chelsea lead Porto thanks to goals from Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, Tuchel does not see any value in trying to be too clever against Sergio Conceicão’s awkward side. “We don’t approach games like this,” he said. “It’s important to play the best game possible again.
“In terms of adapting to the result, it’s easier for Porto because they know what they need to do to go through. If we start adapting we could easily lose our heads. What does it mean? That it’s enough to lose one-zero? It’s good to have a draw, or better to have one-zero for us. Why should we enter into this thinking?
“This is the challenge – to not lose your head. Forget the result, we have to deliver. If we don’t deliver, you cannot expect any results. We have to be free in our minds to react to the situations on the pitch.”
Tuchel has already moved on from Chelsea’s outstanding 4-1 win over Crystal Palace last Saturday, urging his side to keep standards high against Porto and City. This is a pivotal week for Chelsea, who are also battling to finish in the top four in the Premier League.
“If you want to finish the season with a trophy we’d better win both matches, otherwise it could be difficult,” Tuchel said. “It’s most important for me to be fully focused on what we do and forget what we did at Palace because it’s the past.
“There’s nothing less interesting in football than the past. Everything that counts in football is the next match, the next competition. We can be self-confident because we have a strong squad. The squad can rely always on their work rate, their intensity. We are always a tough team to play against. We play in three competitions and hopefully we’ll still be in three competitions.”
Tuchel is yet to decide whether to start N’Golo Kanté in central midfield. The France midfielder picked up a hamstring injury on international duty last month and needs to be managed carefully.
“I was unbelievably happy when he told me he will travel with us last week to Seville,” Tuchel said. “The plan was that he returns against Crystal Palace. He was strong enough to help us in the last 15 or 20 minutes. The downside was he lost a bit of sleep after the travel issues back from Seville. He lost workload in training.
“The next day he suffered from travelling. We decided to bring him from the bench against Palace. Normally it is hard to imagine a game like this without NG. At the same time we need to be absolutely carefully about him, that we don’t take risks with his injury situation. The question is do we want him to start or do we want him to finish the game? There is also the possibility of 120 minutes.”