Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea will show Chesterfield ‘respect’ in the FA Cup this weekend and has discussed his side’s recent upturn in performances and tactical change.
Chelsea face non-league Chesterfield in the FA Cup’s third round tomorrow evening, with more than 90 places separating the west Londoners from the National League leaders in England’s football pyramid.
Tuchel will hope his side can maintain their momentum after beating Tottenham 2-0 in midweek, the Carabao Cup semi-final win following on from an encouraging showing against Liverpool.
The German spoke on Chelsea’s recent performances at his pre-match press conference and admits he has been pleased with his side’s showings.
“Both the last two games against Liverpool and Tottenham, it was not easy for some of the players, because they came from not a lot of minutes, or injury or Covid,” he said.
“So they stepped up and it was an important match, a semi-final, a derby, against a strong coach who came from a good run of results.
“But the way we played, so focused, a lot of determination, that gives us a lot of trust, the proof that we can trust our players, that we can trust ourselves, and that the group can trust, they have the ambition, the mentality to give everything and try their best in every single game.
“From time to time it is a bit harder and it sometimes feels a bit easier. It was a strong performance, very focused and in all parts of the game very determined. It was a nice team effort and we are happy because it was a deserved win. From there we go.
“The last two games, we have shown a good spirit and good quality. It was very important not to lose faith and trust because we are still struggling from Covid and injuries. So we need these kinds of experiences to not lose our belief in what we do. So that was nice to see. Tomorrow is the moment to prove it again.”
Chelsea surprisingly changed to a back four for the win over Tottenham, moving away from the preferred back-three system that has been used since Tuchel’s appointment as head coach.
📊 Antonio Rudiger's influence at Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel
1️⃣st Total carry distance
1️⃣st Passes completed
1️⃣st Long passes completed
1️⃣st Touches pic.twitter.com/jnOXhVVrgG
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 7, 2022
The German admits the change was a necessity given the personnel available and says the European champions will always be ‘open’ to adapting dependent on circumstance.
“It has to make sense,” he said. “I always said why should we change, it is successful and suits our players. For a back three, you need three central defenders. For a back five, you need three and two wingbacks. We simply did not have the players.
“We took the responsibility and the risk and shifted it to a back four while we were attacking. The differences are not that big.
“If it suits the players and their positions which it did for this game, we should always be open to it. But most important is how we play in the system. How lively we play and how courageous we are within the structure. Structure is important for us. We protect ourselves within the structure and structure can help us to be stronger as a team.
“But the most important thing is how the players live up to it. They were very good, very focused and very lively within the structure and disciplined. It suited us for this game and it can stay an option, but no matter what we play, how we play is more important.”
Tomorrow’s game with Chesterfield is followed by the second leg of their semi-final showdown with Tottenham, before a huge Premier League game with Manchester City next weekend.
Tuchel has suggested there will be changes for his side at Stamford Bridge but says Chelsea will show ‘respect’ to their non-league opponents.
“We have to find the balance because we also want to be reliable, be fair to the guys who play after injuries and Covid. I think we have five substitutions which give us a lot of options, which is good.
“Of course, we want to use the match to get some minutes into the guys who desperately need it and want it. Like Timo (Werner) for example. But there is still another training session, there are still one or two more Covid tests. Hopefully, the situation stays as it is now.
“Then we will find a strong line-up and show all the respect to the team and club of Chesterfield. It is the FA Cup and if we want to go to the next round we have to win this match. Nothing else.”
Tuchel conceded that his side are ‘huge favourites’ for the clash but warned his players against the potential for an upset should Chelsea not be focused on securing progress.
“We can lose any game in football. That’s why the game is so popular. You will never hear me say we can’t lose before a game. This would be hugely arrogant. This is not the attitude with which we want to approach the game tomorrow.
“Of course, we are favourites. The opposite to Germany where we would switch the home advantage to the lower team. We have the advantage of no travel and playing in front of our spectators in our home stadium.
“Yes, we are the huge favourites. We want to win and we demand it from ourselves. Still, we respect the game and the opponent. You can demand it from yourself but if you think it through, you need a performance to deliver.
“We need to be ready, have a strong squad, a squad that’s ready to enjoy these minutes because if you want to reach the next round. You need to win and this is as boring as it is but it is like this.”