Thomas Tuchel searching for ‘freedom’ as Chelsea eye more cup success

Thomas Tuchel expects Chelsea to deliver a good performance against Lille (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)
Thomas Tuchel expects Chelsea to deliver a good performance against Lille (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has backed his knock-out kings to deliver again when they host Lille in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg on Tuesday.

The Blues needed an 89th-minute winner from Hakim Ziyech to clinch all three points at Crystal Palace on Saturday following a subdued performance in which Romelu Lukaku only had seven touches of the ball.

While Chelsea have struggled for consistency in the Premier League this season and look to be out of the title race, they continue to be cup specialists.

Victory in Abu Dhabi earlier in February ensured the Club World Cup was added to the trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge and with a place in the Carabao Cup final secured, an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Luton coming up in March and their Champions League campaign resuming on Tuesday, there is plenty for the west London side to play for despite an up-and-down couple of months.

Tuchel said: “I think it is very important for us in this moment to be realistic and not over-expect from us.

“To also accept games against teams in mid-table or the lower end of the table can become difficult games. Once we accept that, it is the first step to feel a certain freedom and to become better, that we don’t over-expect.

“We should not expect too much about how big others see us and if we are the favourites against Lille, just accept it is a phase where things feel a bit tight and a bit more difficult than in other times.

“We will accept it and this is the situation for the match on Tuesday. First of all we play at Stamford Bridge and we are confident to have a good performance because we deliver on a high level in knock-out matches, cup matches, Champions League matches.”

It was put to Tuchel that Lille will have extra preparation time after they were in Ligue 1 action on Friday but the German pointed out Chelsea’s travel on a weekend where Storm Eunice wreaked havoc were relatively favourable.

“I think that Saturday to Tuesday evening for us as a home game and playing in London should not be a problem,” he added.

“Sometimes it can cause a big advantage if there is a tight schedule.

“But we will be ready to fight with Lille on an OK level so that should not be decisive.”

Chelsea were without captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Callum Hudson-Odoi due to muscle problems which were sustained in training ahead of the trip across the capital.

We are confident to have a good performance because we deliver on a high level in knock-out matches, cup matches, Champions League matches.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel

Tuchel revealed the duo could be fit for the midweek European encounter and also provided an update on fears when they visit Lille for the second leg on March 16 that any unvaccinated players in the Blues squad would be unable to enter France.

“We try, we try make them fit for Tuesday,” the 48-year-old explained.

“I think the rules at the moment allow us to travel with everybody and we need everybody.”