Chelsea’s impressive away performance at Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final proved the team belong at the highest level of European football, manager Thomas Tuchel said yesterday.
Chelsea secured a crucial away goal in their 1-1 draw against the 13-times European champions in Madrid, to give Tuchel’s side a narrow advantage ahead of today’s second leg in London.
“The main lesson is that we can trust ourselves and we have the right to be in the semi-final,” Tuchel told a news conference. “We deserve to be there.
“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.”
The German, who replaced Frank Lampard in January, added that the biggest challenge his team faced was to forget the first-leg scoreline.
“The challenge is always over two games, you play the first game and then you start at 0-0 again,” he said.
“I don’t know any other way to prepare a match than to encourage my team to go out and try to win.”
Midfielder Mateo Kovacic will miss the game with a hamstring injury, while defender Antonio Rudiger will have to wear a protective face mask if he is in the squad.
Real have injury issues of their own, with Raphael Varane out for 10 days and Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal both out for the season.
Their skipper Sergio Ramos, also missed the first leg, but Tuchel fully expects the centre back to feature at Stamford Bridge.
“I think that he will start, we will prepare for that,” Tuchel said. “Does it change a lot for Real Madrid? Yes, he’s their captain.
“So it changes a lot but we cannot lose our heads about this decision. We should be self-confident and have no fear to face this challenge.”
Meanwhile, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he is constantly surprised by his players’ capacity to overcome difficulties as they set their sights on a fourth Champions League final in six years in today’s match.
Real have had the most injuries in La Liga this season but have pulled themselves back into the title race while they have also had to contend without a number of influential players in their run to the last four of Europe’s top competition.
“We’ve had a lot of difficulties but you have to take your hat off to this team,” Zidane told a virtual news conference ahead today’s decider at Stamford Bridge, where the tie is delicately balanced at 1-1 from the first leg.
“More than anything else, this team has character. And when the going gets tough they always dig in. In my eyes, they are the best. We are exactly where we want to be and it’s fully deserved.”
Real suffered the latest in a slew of recent injury setbacks when centre back Raphael Varane was ruled out with a thigh problem, adding to a list of stricken defenders including Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez.
But Zidane has been boosted by the return of captain Sergio Ramos, who is set to play his ninth Champions League semi-final tie after recovering from injury, plus French left back Ferland Mendy and Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde.
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