Thomas Tuchel has told his young Chelsea squad to embrace the experience of facing Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final this week.
Chelsea have not reached the last four of Europe’s elite competition since 2014. They also have a squad that’s stocked with new signings and academy players that have yet to reach this stage.
Meanwhile, Madrid have won the Champions League three times under manager Zinedine Zidane, with many of those European champions in their squad. Tuchel believes his side can compete but wants them to learn over two legs versus Los Blancos.
“Zidane has an incredible record, especially in the Champions League, which he won three times in a row which is pretty much impossible to do,” Tuchel told reporters. “We arrived in the semi-final and on the highest level, we will play Real Madrid and it cannot be harder.
“That’s because they are the most experienced team in this competition. They will play these games with full confidence and awareness. They are on a very good run at the moment. Sixteen or so games unbeaten. I am sure we will arrive with confidence and true inner belief.
“We have now crucial matches in the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League after performing and getting good results. I hope we can play adventurous football. We can play aggressive and intense football. We will fight them hard and let’s see who gets the win out of these two games.
“It’s a big challenge and after it, we will be smarter and better. This will be a huge experience together. We are very happy to arrive at this level. This is what you dream of as a little boy, to play international games against Real Madrid, there’s no doubt about it.”
How are Chelsea shaping up?
Chelsea’s only likely absentee is former Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who suffered a hamstring problem in training last week.
The Blues go into the match after wins against Manchester City and West Ham allowed them to reach the FA Cup final while also building a three-point lead in their efforts to finish fourth in the league.
Tuchel is delighted with how his team is shaping up for the make-or-break final month of the campaign.
“We closed the gap very early when it clearly was not in our hands so we closed it early because the other teams didn’t have the results when we had the results,” he added.
“Since last week, it was in our own hands because we arrived in fourth and we took advantage against West Ham in this direct duel which is very significant. It is always a huge win to win like this. For me, it is not over yet.
“At the moment, we are suffering a bit without Kovacic in our two No.6s [setup]. Hopefully, he can come back against Fulham.