Football

Battling Atletico can bring out the best in Chelsea: Tuchel

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel expects their Champions League last 16, first-leg meeting with La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid on Wednesday morning (Feb 24, Singapore time) to be a massive test of his team’s mental strength, the German said on Monday.

The Blues are unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions since Tuchel was named as manager to replace club great Frank Lampard, but he said Chelsea will have to be at their best against Diego Simeone’s battling side.

“It’s a big test. They’re an experienced club at this level, (have) an experienced coach. Hopefully, it brings out the best in us,” Tuchel told a news conference.

“We’ll do things our way, they’ll do things their way. It’s clear what you get when you play Atletico – fighting, experience, a team with a good mentality.”

Tuchel will be without seasoned defender Thiago Silva with the Brazilian recovering from a knock,  but midfielder Kai Havertz and forward Christian Pulisic are in contention.

Atletico were due to host the match in Madrid before it was moved to Romania’s National Arena as Spain banned arrivals from Britain, with the exception of passengers who are residents or citizens of Spain or Andorra, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Yeah, it’s a disadvantage for Atletico to lose their home ground,” Tuchel added.

The German hauled off Callum Hudson-Odoi after bringing on the England international as a substitute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Southampton, but Tuchel said the winger would travel to Bucharest for the game.

“We decided to speak to him in front of the group. Was it the right decision? I don’t know. We did it in front of a group because it’s not a big thing,” Tuchel said of his decision in the Southampton game. – REUTERS

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