Thomas Tuchel addressed the media ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup final against Liverpool on Saturday evening.
Chelsea head to Wembley for another FA Cup final, their third in as many seasons, but they will be hoping for a change of fortune.
Defeats against Arsenal and Leicester City leave the Blues on the brink of creating unwanted history, to lose three straight FA Cup finals.
Jurgen Klopp’s side defeated Tuchel’s men in the Carabao Cup final back in February and Chelsea will be desperate to get revenge, as well as lifting their first piece of domestic silverware under Tuchel’s tutelage.
Here’s what the Chelsea boss had to say in full in his pre-match press conference:
On Mateo Kovacic:
“We tried today, actually. It’s pretty surprising to be in a situation where we can try it but Mateo wants to try it. Medical department gave the green light to try it. The ‘advantage’ is that the ligament is anyway torn from the last incident so there is no new injury but heavy pain, was heavily swollen. We are hoping that maybe time is enough for him to make it. We will try in two and a half hours in training and we will know more about it.
“In the game, again he was very, very good and in general he stepped up this season again in his game. The qualities of him, the personality we have spoken a lot. His dribbling, carrying the ball, driving with it, is excellent. He’s a top team player, played many years for Real Madrid. He knows what it takes to put the ego aside and serve the team. This is what he is. Fantastic guy, fantastic player. We missed him too much this season, some injuries. We missed him over several weeks. At the same time we missed Jorgi and N’golo, which cost us a little bit. Unfortunately now he is so ambitious, has this injury before the FA Cup final. He was excellent against Liverpool lately. We will try everything and see tomorrow.”
On FA Cup final being high intensity:
“Yeah. Anything else would surprise me. It started with last season’s win at Anfield. Started very early in this season, with a draw at Anfield and then a draw at Stamford Bridge, a draw over 120 minutes and 20 something penalties at Wembley. Very close, very intense matches. We always need our very highest level to compete but we found it in the matches. I don’t expect crazy new things from them and also from us. The game is on tomorrow. A big final, big competition. We want to be spot on.”
On sanctions stopping Chelsea buying academy players tickets & first team staff and players paying themselves:
“That’s what we did. It’s a big competition. It is one club. Normally the club would buy these tickets to provide it for the players’ parents of the academy so we stepped in and bought the tickets for them.”
On Romelu Lukaku’s agent planning talks with new owners:
“*laughs* I think if he plans to talk with the owner it is not his plan to talk with me! It’s fair enough. Let’s see if he gets a meeting! It is his right. We will talk to anybody. We will evaluate any situation of any player including Romelu. We will see what is going to happen and what the plans are.”
On concerns with Romelu Lukaku’s agent talking to media:
“I was just aware of it five or ten minutes ago actually. That’s what it is sometimes in football, the attention is so high that sometimes it attracts situations that you don’t want to have before big matches. It’s the way it is. For me it is not a distraction and hopefully for everybody that works on the team and the team itself it is not.”
On team selection & playing Kai Havertz or Romelu Lukaku:
“Can also play both although they lacked a bit of feeling of a perfect fit together. It’s very likely that it is one of the two but we will not give the line-up today. Listen, Romelu played lately and scored lately. He did everything to stay on the pitch. Will be our final call in the morning.”
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On N’Golo Kante’s fitness:
“He is also trying. He tried yesterday in team training and trained more or less everything. Hopefully without a reaction. Was a reduced training session because of quite a long travel and fatigue of travelling. Was not a high intensity training session. We will try today with him. He is keen to make it. Hopefully he makes it to training 100% so we can plan with him tomorrow, would be good for us.”
On whether he will gamble on Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante fitness:
“It is the moment to take a risk, yeah.”
On winning one FA Cup final out of five in six years:
“If I knew I would change it! I don’t know. I can only say that last year we were with me. Also in the final against Leicester. We will try it again. First of all it is a big achievement to be in these finals. There has to be unfortunately a loser. In these finals there is a special energy, a special atmosphere. There is a special momentum you have to catch and for sure you need a piece of luck to go away with a trophy. We are aware of that. We feel again well prepared. The atmosphere is right. The momentum is okay after the reaction in Leeds. Everybody knows what we are up to. We want to arrive to give Liverpool a hard fight. I don’t know if there is one reason it is like this. I would prefer to point out the positives. A fifth cup final in six years, it shows the competitive spirit we have.”
On needing to win FA Cup for successful season:
“First of all, we have a chance to win something domestically. We have been to the Carabao Cup final. We have won European trophies and World Championship trophies. There are worse seasons out there. A lot of teams have had a worse season than our season. I wouldn’t get carried away and say we have to win it. We will try everything. Changes a lot if you play a final or win a final, I can tell you. We will do everything to be happy with ourselves and that we leave everything out there on the pitch. This is what we did in Carabao. Nothing new. We need luck, it needs to be on our side. We will push hard for it.”
On the difference to win the cup:
“I think it can be anything, a shot from the post and deflected on the post out or the post in. It can be a set piece. Look at the big chances we had, they had too in the Carabao Cup. It can be about who gets the lead first, who gets a grip. You have to be spot on in these kinds of matches. Such close matches lately. Decisions, sometimes red cards, a mistake here, we came back at Stamford Bridge, they came back at Anfield with a penalty and we had to dig in with ten men. A lot of stories. I think that’s why we cannot focus on one singular point. I agree with you, it will be down to margins. It will be down to details within the match. We are facing one of the very best coaches and teams in the world right now. It is obvious and proven over the last years and recent weeks. We are up for the fight.”
On irritation at the FA Cup not being last game of the season:
“Good point. Would make it maybe more important, the final (at the end of season) and give it more attention but I haven’t thought about it because it feels big to me. To arrive at the stadium tomorrow. But yeah, you have a point. If it is a weekend only with the cup final and maybe the cup final for the women, there would be even more attention. It’s not the easiest, no matter if you win it or lose it to go again on Wednesday or on Thursday and again on Sunday to maintain other targets. It’s quite a challenge.”
On Mateo Kovacic potentially needing an operation:
“No, no. It just helped because he was anyway too mobile in the moments so he could not injure himself because he was already more or less injured but not in a way he needs surgery, he was ready to play and fit, no pain. A conservative treatment. The high mobility is how I understood it as not an expert. The high mobility helped to escape without a huge injury.
On full team news:
“No, Callum is not available and Ben Chilwell also not, of course.”
On practising penalties and Kepa selection:
“*laughs* Kepa shoots (practices) for six weeks! I will not tell you. I have an opinion about it but I will not tell you. When it comes to it, you will see. Even if we decide like in the Carabao Cup before, if we have the chance we will do it. In approaching the match we always say let’s wait for the match and let’s see how the game goes, let’s see if we still have a change available. Let’s see how the match goes for Edou. It is never done before and it will not be done now. We have a plan for what we can do.
“Practising, I’m a bit torn in between if you can practise it and how much to practise it. My players shoot a lot of penalties during a season, I have to say – on an almost daily basis. Not too much. Not that a week before a final everybody is suddenly starting to shoot ten penalties a day. It is more or less one or two per day through the season. In my opinion it is good to have a certain routine for the players. To shoot tomorrow after 120 minutes of intense fight in a full stadium and pressure is on, it’s a different story. You cannot train. There are some techniques and routines you can dig into. This is what we do but over a long period of time.”