Thomas Tuchel admits Chelsea still lag behind Manchester City – but they will hunt down Europe’s ‘benchmark’ club next season.
Chelsea face City in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Tuchel taking charge of a match at Wembley for the first time, and chasing a maiden managerial win over Pep Guardiola.
The Blues’ German boss believes Chelsea still have long-term ground to make up on quadruple-chasing City, but has exhorted his players to close that gap just for 90 minutes this weekend.
Asked if this meeting with Guardiola will be the first time he takes on the decorated Spanish coach as an equal, Tuchel replied: ‘Yes and no. We have to accept that there is a gap between us and Manchester City.
‘If you look at the fixture in the Premier League and the fixtures in the last years we have to accept this.
‘And it’s important that we accept this without making ourselves too small.
‘So, from next year on, from day one of next season, we we will hunt them, we will try to close the gap between us.
‘And this the benchmark. For me in Europe there are two teams who are the benchmark, there is Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
‘But, of course, he made it impossible for us to compete with Mainz.
‘I think we had two draws with Dortmund and then a cup final in a penalty loss, and another draw at home with Dortmund.
‘We came close and it’s time that we beat them, and the next try is tomorrow.
‘I don’t believe in how big clubs are, how tough it is or are we equal or not.
‘We have to admit there is a gap but for 90 minutes we are very self-aware and very self-confident that we believe we can close the gap tomorrow for one game.
‘And this is the target for tomorrow.
‘I arrive happy to compete against the benchmark in England and Europe.
‘We want the momentum of football on our side, and to play at the top level it’s not to force things, and we’ll need a bit of luck.’
Former Dortmund and Paris St Germain boss Tuchel has taken on Guardiola five times and remains winless against City’s mastermind manager.
Tuchel revealed Guardiola had a major effect on his coaching style, conceding he was glued to the screen during the ex-Spain midfielder’s Barcelona tenure.
‘He’s a huge influence on me, because when he was coach at Barcelona I didn’t have the chance to know him personally, but I was watching almost every game,’ said Tuchel.
‘I was very impressed by the way they made success happen, by the style they were playing, all the academy guys, the offensive ball possession.
‘And what was maybe most impressive about this team was the mentality and how they defended when they lost the ball.
‘So, I learned a lot watching the games, in understanding more of the game, how adventurous and how brave you can approach this game.’
Andreas Christensen will miss Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final through injury (John Walton/PA)
Mateo Kovacic will definitely miss Saturday’s FA Cup clash with hamstring trouble, but N’Golo Kante is ready to start his second game in a week.
Kante was pressed into starting Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Porto after hamstring trouble with Kovacic ruled out, and the France midfielder produced a classic showing.
Now the ex-Leicester man is ready to go again in a big boost to Chelsea, though defender Andreas Christensen has failed to shake off his own muscle problem.
‘We have the green light for N’Golo because we had three days in between which for him makes a huge difference,’ said Tuchel.
‘Mateo is unfortunately still out, already feeling better but still out and cannot be in the squad.
‘And also Andreas Christensen is out and cannot be in the squad, so this is the situation.’
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