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‘This is what you dream of’ – Tuchel wants Chelsea players to embrace Real Madrid matches

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.

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‘The fans were heard’ – Tuchel doesn’t want apologies from Abramovich despite Super League distractions at Chelsea.

The Blues supporters made their voices heard ahead of their last home game, but their manager is glad that the debacle is over

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel isn’t asking for any apologies from the Chelsea hierarchy – but he is glad to no longer be fronting up the Super League project for the club.

The Blues boss admitted to being distracted by the talk of Chelsea joining the ESL ahead of their 0-0 draw with Brighton on Tuesday night, before the club ultimately left the lucrative proposed competition.

Dropping those points at home in midweek has added pressure ahead of the away trip to West Ham, which pits two contenders for the top four against each other, and Tuchel signed off with some final thoughts on the Super League.

What he said?

“Yeah, yeah [I was distracted last time],” Tuchel said ahead of the trip to London Stadium. “But it’s the owner’s club, it’s not my club. I’m part of the club, but it’s the owner and the club’s decision, and now they change that decision.

“There’s no need to apologise to me directly, my job is to adapt to the circumstances. Were we distracted, yeah clearly. Me personally, I arrived in a state of mind on Tuesday at the stadium that was clearly not the mindset that I normally arrive in, for a match, but that’s already in the past, and like I said, I don’t think they need to apologise to me.”

Team news against West Ham

Chelsea’s only injured player is Mateo Kovacic, who has a hamstring problem and is targeting a return next week against Fulham.

Edouard Mendy will return in goal despite Kepa Arrizabalaga having played and got clean sheets in the last two matches.

Tuchel said: “Kovacic is still out but everyone else is available. I think we can hope for Fulham [for Kovacic’s return], but don’t take it as medical advice. Maybe the physios and doctors will kill me for that. I think Madrid could be very close, but obviously, he has not trained with the team.

“The good news is that we are totally focused on the game with no other subjects around. Mendy is in goal. The change was made for Kepa for the cup game. Even before the cup game, the goalkeeper coach and I decided that Kepa would stay in for one more game after City as a reward to keep the rhythm of playing every three days.

It should be like a real reward and not just reward him for the competition, because of how he is playing and in the dressing room he is simply outstanding in terms of quality and personality, and I’m very happy that he could show it on the pitch again.

“He had two clean sheets in two difficult matches for us. So it is a very good feeling to know we can rely on two goalkeepers and they can produce clean sheets. They earn our trust in the moment and the situation, in general, has not changed – Edouard will be in goal tomorrow.”