Tuchel: Chelsea facing two cup finals with Leicester

By Sports Desk May 14, 2021

Thomas Tuchel believes Chelsea face "two finals" against Leicester City over the course of four days that could do much to define their revival under his leadership.

The Blues have been a team reborn since Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard as head coach in January and Saturday's FA Cup final at Wembley is their first of two shots they have at silverware – the other coming in the Champions League final against Manchester City in Porto at the end of this month.

Chelsea and Leicester will reconvene on Tuesday with qualification for next season's Champions League still on the line, especially after contrasting fortunes in their most recent fixtures.

Leicester won 2-1 at Manchester United to move ahead of Chelsea in fourth, who went down to a lacklustre 1-0 derby loss at home to Arsenal.

Liverpool, who also beat United in their match at Old Trafford on Thursday, could be one point behind Chelsea by the time Tuchel's men are back in league action and he lamented his team's failure to be "decisive" in the Arsenal game.

"Obviously I cannot judge it," he said when asked which game was more important. "These are two finals and we do not think about anything else but the two finals.

"It's a final for the cup, it's a final for the top four. We missed a chance against Arsenal to be decisive and now we have to cope with it – first of all to show a reaction at Wembley and have the upper hand when it comes to Tuesday."

Tuchel took his share of the blame immediately after Emile Smith Rowe was gifted the only goal by a dire Jorginho backpass at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, and he conceded his irritation at the result had not quite subsided.

"'I still have a hangover from the last defeat, it's always like this. I'm a bit more in angry mode, not at myself or the players but because of the result and the opportunity we missed," he explained.

"I will hopefully transform that to a good preparation and push the team to the edge to play sharp. We have to show a reaction, it's the FA Cup final at Wembley.

"I am fully focused to prepare my team better than two days ago."

On Thursday, the Champions League final was relocated from Istanbul to Porto due to Turkey being on the UK government's "red list" for travel in relation to COVID-19 restrictions.

Tuchel insists his squad should not be paying any attention to an eagerly anticipated fixture still two weeks away.

"I'm happy to go to Porto, I'm happy to go to a final. That's the easy answer - I would go anywhere to play a final," he said.

"But right now the bigger challenge is to forget the Champions League final and to be fully focused on our two finals that are ahead of us.

"We cannot lose one percentage of concentration and focus. We did this the last game against Arsenal and we got punished for it. Lesson learned and well accepted."

Kepa Arrizabalaga will keep his place at Wembley as Chelsea's cup goalkeeper and Tuchel confirmed Mateo Kovacic was fit to feature again after a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

"It's huge because Mateo has everything we need in the midfield," he added. 'Experience, power, he can beat players, he has physical ability and has played big games in the Premier League. 

"When we missed N'Golo [Kante] and Mateo, we lacked a lot of quality, energy and experience.

"Billy [Gilmour] did a huge job in huge games but it's not fair to compare him to these players because they have more experience and are a step ahead in their development. 

"It's big news that [Kovacic] is back because he's a big guy in the dressing room around important matches."

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Italy – Leonardo Spinazzola

    Among defenders, only Denzel Dumfries (six) attempted more dribbles than Spinazzola (five) before Tuesday's matches, while only three players in his position completed more final-third passes than the Roma full-back (20).

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    Switzerland – Breel Embolo

    Any hope of penetrating the Italy defence is likely to come through Embolo, who scored Switzerland's opener in the 1-1 draw with Wales.

    No player had more shots (six) or more on target (three) in that game in Azerbaijan. He also had 10 touches in the opposition box, more than any player in the first four days of action – except, once again, for Dumfries (11).

     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - This is the first encounter between Italy and Switzerland in the European Championship. However, they have met in two previous major tournaments: in the 1954 World Cup (as hosts, Switzerland won both games: a group stage match and a play-off) and the 1962 World Cup (Italy won 3-0 in Chile, also in the group stages).
    - Italy have lost only one of their 24 games against Switzerland on Italian soil (W18 D5): it was a friendly in October 1982 at Rome's Stadio Olimpico (0-1), in what was Italy's first game after being crowned world champions three months previously.
    - Victory will see Italy become the first team to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020. However, the Azzurri have won both of their opening two matches in just two of their nine previous appearances at the finals, doing so in 2000 and 2016.
    - Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is looking to become the second-youngest goalkeeper in the history of the European Championship to keep a clean sheet in consecutive appearances (22y 111d on the day of this game), after Russia's Igor Akinfeev in June 2008 (22y 71d).
    - Switzerland's Haris Seferovic has had 13 shots in five appearances at the European Championship, including four in the first half of their 1-1 draw with Wales. However, he is yet to score in the competition.

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