07 April 2022

Thomas Tuchel admits Chelsea’s Champions League defence is all but over

07 April 2022

Thomas Tuchel has all-but admitted defeat in the Champions League after Chelsea slumped to a 3-1 first-leg loss to Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge.

Karim Benzema’s stunning hat-trick handed Real total control at the midway point of their quarter-final with the defending champions.

And a deflated and angry Blues boss Tuchel effectively conceded Chelsea are now odds-on to relinquish their Champions League crown.

Tuchel took responsibility for the tactical set-up that allowed Benzema and Vinicius Junior to terrorise Andreas Christensen on Chelsea’s right flank.

But the Chelsea boss challenged his players to rediscover their lost poise in Saturday’s Premier League trip to Southampton to set their faltering season back on track.

Asked if the tie is still alive despite the defeat, Tuchel replied: “No. Not at the moment, no.

“Because we have to find our level back, I don’t know where it is since the international break, but the first-half is a repetition of the second-half against Brentford, in a quarter-final against Real Madrid.

“We were so far off our level in everything the game demands. We have to get things ready for Saturday at Southampton and we can’t think about the Bernabeu today.

“We face Southampton on Saturday and if we continue to play like this we will not get a point.”

Chelsea have now leaked seven goals in two matches after Saturday’s 4-1 home humbling by Brentford, leaving the Blues battling to find their form.

Tuchel admitted the international break had dissipated all Chelsea’s momentum and insisted the Blues must forget about Tuesday’s Madrid trip given their weekend clash at Southampton.

Asked if effectively admitting defeat at the halfway stage of the last-eight tie would send the wrong message to his players, Tuchel replied: “If you want to put it on this sentence, put it on this sentence, honestly.

“I worry more about Southampton on Saturday than Real Madrid on Tuesday. If we don’t get our heads and legs straight and our mentality right we will not win. And then this tie is not alive.

“If things change, maybe, but how many clubs in worldwide football could do what we need, three goals difference? How often does this happen?

“Let’s be honest, we know we are competitive and we need to find our competitive quality and then we can talk.

“I think personally there was enough where we could hurt them but we were so far off our level of everything the game demands, tactically, shape, stiffness, in challenges.

“It’s on all of us, I’m included in this. Individually we lost shape and sharpness in the national break.

“I don’t have really explanation because we have fallen from being very, very competitive.

“For the situation on the flank with Christensen, it was my mistake. Also though, in five days it’s seven goals conceded.

“I don’t think there’s a deeper reason for it. But it’s alarming because in two games seven goals. But nothing has changed.”

Benzema took his startling season’s tally to 37 goals in 36 games in all competitions.

The 34-year-old Real captain now boasts hat-tricks in successive Champions League matches and also 13 goals in his last seven Madrid games in all competitions.

“Karim Benzema is getting better every day; just like a fine wine,” said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“He’s more of a leader every day, he feels more and more important in this team and this squad. And I think that’s what makes the difference.

“He has so much more personality, he knows he’s a very important player for us and he’s an example for everyone.

“I think the most important thing was the bravery that the players showed. The key was that we brought the ball out from the back very well, we were able to get between the lines and Vinicius and Karim Benzema were very dangerous. Both of them linked up very well.”

Ancelotti returned a negative Covid test just in time to link up with his Madrid squad on the day, with the 60-year-old in good health – but still wary of a wounded Chelsea for the second-leg.

“I’m feeling good, I haven’t really had any symptoms,” said Ancelotti. I managed to make it back fortunately the team has done really well.

“It was a really good performance, we played well, we were brave, we showed our personality.

“We have a lead but that’s all it is at this stage. The tie is still open. Chelsea are a good team and we respect them, there’s another game to go and anything can happen.”

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