Thomas Tuchel reiterated his belief the "unique" Champions League final stood apart from domestic meetings between Manchester City and Chelsea, but another Blues win gave his side confidence.

Three weeks on from knocking City out of the FA Cup and ending their quadruple bid, Chelsea defeated the Premier League leaders again.

Tuchel's men trailed to Raheem Sterling's goal a minute before half-time and then escaped further punishment when Sergio Aguero made a mess of a penalty moments later.

Chelsea regrouped at the break and responded with goals from Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso to win 2-1.

Tuchel, who lost his first three coaching duels with Pep Guardiola in Germany but is unbeaten in four since, told Sky Sports: "Sure, it gives us confidence, because it's all about performance and confidence.

"We know very well, I've said it before and I will repeat it, that will not change the final. It's a very unique game. We cannot predict what will happen, so you need to be well prepared

"We will have some changes again and they will have some changes again, but we arrive with the knowledge that we are capable of beating them. This is what we have now and this will not change until Istanbul."

Chelsea had 43.3 per cent of the possession in the first half but 57.9 per cent in the second, while four of their five shots on target came after the restart.

Tuchel highlighted "more control" as key in their improvement, while Ziyech's goal allowed the team to get "more and more confident".

"What a performance in the second half," he said. "It was more or less an equal first half. In the last five minutes, we had to give it away completely.

"If they score the penalty, maybe it's over before it really starts. Maybe you go to half-time at 2-0 and you have no chance to come back.

"But it was very hard because we were 1-0 down and had one injured player, so I am absolutely impressed by the reaction and the performance in the second half.

"I think we even deserved to win with the performance in the second half.

"If you want to steal all three points at Etihad in this situation, after being 1-0 down, you need a bit of luck, a bit of momentum and decisions from referees. It's like this.

"But we had many, many half-chances, many chances here in the second half. Big, big congratulations to the team for the second half."

It was the first time in 10 attempts Chelsea had won after trailing at the interval in the Premier League.

The Blues had rescued just two draws since a comeback victory against Aston Villa in June 2020, losing on the other seven occasions.

Thomas Tuchel is braced for "the most difficult game" against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City as Chelsea prepare for a Champions League final dress rehearsal. 

The two clubs came through their respective semi-finals to secure an all-English showdown in Istanbul later this month, but first they will do battle in the Premier League on Saturday.

Tuchel got the better of Guardiola when the sides met in the last four of the FA Cup last month, with Chelsea running out 1-0 winners as they seek a trophy double this season.

But City have a treble in their sights as the EFL Cup winners seek a victory that would wrap up the top-flight title this weekend and Tuchel knows the Blues, fresh from Wednesday's 2-0 triumph over Real Madrid, will be up against it at the Etihad Stadium.

"If you play against Pep you know the most difficult game has arrived because he has coached the best teams in Europe and he leaves his footprint and style of play," said the German, who also took Paris Saint-Germain to last season's Champions League final.

"His teams are always super hungry to win and he transforms them into a winning machine.

"It was like this at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City. They are the benchmark in the Premier League but it is our job to close the gap for 90 minutes.

"Once you arrive against Pep you know the level is high and you have to be at your best coaching level to give your team full confidence and play at the best level.

"They are used to winning and are a very regular team at the highest level."

Chelsea have a poor recent record at City, losing on their last three trips by an aggregate score of 9-1, while the hosts have not lost at home to London opposition since 2018 against Crystal Palace.

Although none of the last 11 meetings have ended in a draw, both sides have shown an aptitude for solid defending this season, City keeping 18 clean sheets in 34 league games, while Chelsea boast 11 in 15 top-flight fixtures under Tuchel.

Asked if this domestic meeting had taken on added significance in light of the continental clash that awaits, Tuchel added: "I'm not so sure. The possibility is that they can become champions so their ambitions and determination will not be lower.

"They have the upper hand because they had one more day to recover and don't have to travel, we saw how big an impact that can have in the FA Cup.

"We have to deal with it and I think that the final in Istanbul will be pretty unique no matter what the score is tomorrow, no matter if we win or they win or if we draw. 

"I try to prepare the game in a normal way and the challenge right now is to get the tiredness out of our legs and our brains. The target is to be in good shape tomorrow and then we'll see."

One player Chelsea will be wary of is Kevin De Bruyne, who has scored four goals in against them in the Premier League – the most of any player against the Blues who had previously played for them in the competition.

Thomas Tuchel said the sacrifice of leaving his family to take on the challenge of managing Chelsea has been "worth it every single day" after making history by guiding them to the Champions League final.

The Blues progressed to the final for the third time in their history as a 2-0 win over Real Madrid clinched a 3-1 aggregate victory and a place in the Istanbul showpiece against Premier League rivals Manchester City on May 29.

In doing so, Tuchel became the first manager in the history of the Champions League and European Cup to reach the final in consecutive seasons with different teams. Tuchel led Paris Saint-Germain to the final last year, only to lose 1-0 to Bayern Munich.

Chelsea will also contest the FA Cup final against Leicester City on May 15 and hold a three-point lead over fifth-placed West Ham in the race for the Premier League top four.

Tuchel has lost only two of his 24 games (W16, D6) since taking charge in January and insists he immediately felt right at home at Stamford Bridge.

"It was worth it every single day so far," Tuchel said of the sacrifice he made.

"I was part of an amazing club from the first day, I felt huge support from day one. I'm very grateful to be at the sideline of this team."

Chelsea took a 1-0 lead through Timo Werner's simple 28th-minute header after Kai Havertz had struck the crossbar, but spurned several chances to stretch their lead as Havertz twice went close and Mason Mount and N'Golo Kante wasted opportunities.

But Mount made the tie safe five minutes from time, becoming the second youngest Englishman to score in the semi-finals of the Champions League – aged 22 years and 15 days – after Wayne Rooney (21 years 182 days).

"The heads were never down, the heads were always up even after these big chances," added Tuchel.

"We always stayed positive and we never regret something so it was fantastic. The job is not done yet, we are in two finals now, the sacrifice I personally gave was worth it since day one."

Chelsea beat Pep Guardiola's City in the FA Cup semi-finals and will face them again in the league on Saturday.

Tuchel rejected the notion of that victory giving Chelsea the upper hand ahead of the final but said of the Wembley win: "It gives us a good feeling, it gives us confidence.

"We played that semi-final on the edge and we used it. I said before and I will say it always for me Bayern Munich throughout the last season with Manchester City, they are the benchmark.

"We wanted to close the gap in this one match, the semi-final, which we did on a very impressive performance and we will need the same level of performance again.

"It gave us belief, it gave us self-confidence for every game after that because it is the highest level you can face. We have these huge challenges in the Premier League, we have come out of it very, very strong, we showed mentality and quality in all of these matches.

"We will arrive with self-confidence and with the positive energy in Istanbul. We will arrive in Istanbul to win, not to be one of the participants, we arrive to be focused to win." 

Thomas Tuchel insists Chelsea will not sit back on their away-goal advantage against Real Madrid as it is in the club's DNA to try to win every match.

Christian Pulisic scored a crucial goal for Chelsea in last week's Champions League semi-final first leg before Karim Benzema levelled up the tie at 1-1 through Madrid's only shot on target.

The onus is on Madrid to score an away goal of their own in Wednesday's return match at Stamford Bridge, but Tuchel does not intend to set his side out to protect their narrow lead.

"For me, the challenge is to forget the result in two-legged games and go on and start anew at 0-0," he said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"We will prepare to win the match, nothing else. I don't know any other way to prepare other than to encourage my team to go out and try to win it.

"If we are at our best then it's a no-brainer that we go for the win. We want to win games, this club is about winning.

"This game and competition is about winning. We are in the semi-final second leg.

"The first result is not as important as everybody thinks. There is zero importance for me in the preparation of this match. 

"It's not changed anything about how we've prepared, zero influence. We will encourage them, we will demand from them and we will be strong tomorrow as a group."

Tuchel was left frustrated by Chelsea's finishing in the first leg, with Timo Werner guilty of missing good opportunities either side of Pulisic and Benzema's goals.

Werner has scored from three of his 20 shots in this season's Champions League, giving the Germany international a shot conversion rate of 15.0 per cent.

For comparison, Madrid striker Benzema – who will overtake Raul as the competition's outright fourth top goalscorer if he nets on Wednesday – has scored from six of his 31 shots (19.4 per cent)

But while Tuchel accepts his attacking players have to be more clinical, he is happy to persist with his current set-up.

"I believe that Timo absolutely wants to score more, but we have to understand sometimes strikers miss chances. This is part of the game," he said. 

"We have another training session today and it is always about the last impression from the players.

"Everybody needs to step up to take responsibility for scoring. This will come maybe with more time and some self-confidence. 

"I am pretty relaxed about it and trust my players, no matter who starts tomorrow."

Madrid were without captain Sergio Ramos last week but the experienced defender has been included as part of their squad for Wednesday's game.

Los Blancos have won three and drawn one of the four Champions League games Ramos has started this season, compared to three wins, two draws and two losses in the seven games he has missed.

Tuchel is expecting Ramos to return to the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge, which could also possibly mean a change in formation for the visitors.

"Does Ramos play or not? This is a tough question because I don't know if he's fit or not. We'll see after training and when they give the line-up," the German coach said.

"Does it change for Real Madrid? Yes, it changes them a lot. He's the captain of the most successful team in Europe in recent years.

"It changes a lot but we cannot lose our heads about this decision. I think that he will start, we will prepare for that and we have to make sure he can't do it alone."

"I am not sure if they will play 5-3-2 again, maybe they will go 4-3-3. From this decision, things change. 

"I believe that it is not about formation, what Real Madrid play, it is about how we play. Are we brave enough? Are we courageous enough?"

Chelsea have progressed from five of their past seven knockout ties in the Champions League when avoiding defeat away from home in the first leg. 

However, one of those two eliminations came in their last semi-final appearance in the competition, versus Atletico Madrid in 2013-14 when losing the second leg 3-1.

The Blues' only previous triumph in the competition was in 2011-12 and Tuchel, a beaten finalist with Paris Saint-Germain last season, knows the importance of lifting the trophy.

"I never felt like this competition is our holy grail since I arrived but I felt that this club is about winning," he said. 

"It does something to you, you feel it. We are very competitive, very serious about any game, this is what I like.

"I never felt we had a holy grail to reach the final or winning the Champions League is the only target. I have a strong feeling that every win counts, the club demands it."

Tuchel confirmed midfielder Mateo Kovacic will again miss out for Chelsea through injury, but Antonio Rudiger is fit to play with the aid of a protective mask.

Away-day specialists Manchester City saw off Crystal Palace 2-0 to close in on another Premier League title and equal a top-flight record in the process.

Chelsea beat Fulham by the same scoreline elsewhere in Saturday's Premier League action, thanks to a couple of goals from Kai Havertz.

A two-goal success was also the outcome when Brighton and Hove Albion welcomed Leeds United to the Amex Stadium, the Seagulls all but securing their top-flight status for another season.

In the late match, Aston Villa edged out Everton 2-1 to boost their chances of a top-half finish and derail their opponents' European prospects.

We use Opta data to take a look at the best facts from Saturday's games.

 

Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City: Patient Citizens win again on their travels

Goals from Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres in the space of 83 seconds proved enough for City to pick up a victory that leaves them on the brink of another piece of silverware.

Those strikes came from the Citizens' first two shots on target and saw them reach the 700-goal mark under Pep Guardiola in all competitions.

City's 57-minute wait for their first on-target attempt of the match was their longest in a Premier League game since November 2019 against Southampton.

Torres added to Aguero's opener moments later with a good finish from 20 yards - the 11th league goal Palace have conceded from outside the box this term, which is the joint-most of any Premier League team alongside Sheffield United.

The victory was City's 11th in a row away from home in the Premier League, equalling the all-time English top-flight record held by Chelsea (April-December 2008) and City themselves (May-December 2017).

Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 Leeds United: Whites lose again on south coast

Brighton moved within touching distance of securing a fifth successive season of Premier League football thanks to a well-earned victory at home to Leeds.

Pascal Gross found the bottom corner from a 14th-minute penalty and Danny Welbeck added to that with his fifth Premier League goal of the season in his 21st outing - the forward's best top-flight return since 2017-18.

It was an all-too-familiar tale for Leeds, who have now lost five successive away league meetings against Brighton without scoring - the first time that has happened in their history against a single opponent.

In fact, Brighton have won eight of their last nine league meetings with Leeds home and away, which is more than they managed in their previous 28 against them.

Leeds managed just two attempts on target as Graham Potter's Brighton claimed a seventh home clean sheet of the season, a tally bettered only by Manchester City and Chelsea (nine each) in the Premier League this season.

 

Chelsea 2-0 Fulham: Havertz inflicts more derby misery on Cottagers

Kai Havertz doubled his Premier League goals tally with a brace in Chelsea's routine victory over Championship-bound Fulham.

All eight of the Germany international's goals for Chelsea in all competitions have now been scored in London, seven of those at Stamford Bridge and one at Selhurst Park.

His second goal in this game involved some nice link-up play with Timo Werner, who with that assist became the first Chelsea player to reach double figures for both goals (11) and assists (10) in his debut season for the club since Eden Hazard in 2012-13.

Werner's combined 21 goals and assists is the most of any Chelsea player this term, and he is one of five Premier League players to reach double figures for both metrics across all competitions alongside Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Son Heung-min and Marcus Rashford.

Fulham have now gone 19 away games without a win at neighbours Chelsea in all competitions - only versus Everton (31), Hull City (23) and Middlesbrough (21) are the Blues currently enjoying a longer unbeaten run against an opponent on home soil.

The Cottagers are also now winless in 24 Premier League London derbies since beating West Ham in January 2014 - only Palace have endured a longer such run in English top-flight history, going 31 London derbies without a win between August 1969 and March 1973.

Fulham missed some good chances as Chelsea kept an 11th Premier League clean sheet under Thomas Tuchel - the most shutouts for any manager in their first 15 games in the competition, one more than ex-Blues bosses Jose Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Everton 1-2 Aston Villa: Toffees' poor Goodison run continues against familiar opponents

Villa dented Everton's European hopes with victory at Goodison Park in what was the 205th top-flight meeting between the clubs - the most played fixture in England's top division.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Villans have won more games (20) and scored more goals (73) in the Premier League era against Everton than they have against any other side in the competition.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his 20th goal in all competitions this season to open the scoring in Saturday's late kick-off - with that haul including a Premier League leading seven headers - to cancel out Ollie Watkins' opener.

But Anwar El Ghazi snatched all three points for the Villans 10 minutes from time with his eighth goal in 23 Premier League games this season, doubling his tally from 34 appearances in the competition last time out.

Everton have now won just one of their last 10 home league matches and have tasted defeat at Goodison Park eight times this season - only in 1993-94 have they lost on more occasions (nine) in a single Premier League campaign.

Thomas Tuchel praised Kai Havertz for giving him a headache ahead of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final second leg with Real Madrid with his match-winning performance against Fulham.

Havertz scored a goal in each half as Chelsea cruised to a 2-0 victory over Fulham, which moved them six points clear of West Ham in the race for the top four, although David Moyes' side have a game in hand. 

The Germany international had started on the bench in Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Madrid, but may have given Tuchel a selection problem for the return fixture at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday after doubling his Premier League goals tally for the season having scored only two goals in his previous 24 appearances in the competition.

"Still there is room for improvement but for today I am very happy," Tuchel told a media conference of Havertz's performance. 

"Of course, he was decisive, he was involved with Timo [Werner] as a double striker and with Mason [Mount] and Hakim [Ziyech] as the four offensive guys, always involved in dangerous attacks and situations.

"For me it was the individual example for what I just explained, the players today who maybe had a tough decision on them last Tuesday but they didn't say, or like Kai today, didn't play with the attitude that they need me and I wanted more time in Madrid, why do they play me now only against Fulham?

"This was absolutely not the case, he took his chance, he showed up, this is what we need all the time and especially in situations like this, you need guys who are fully committed.

"That means if you have a chance to show up, then show. If you have five minutes, fifteen minutes or a whole game, whatever it is, show that you are ready and give me a headache for the next game."

Asked if the race for a top-four finish is now theirs to lose, Tuchel replied: "No, I feel we have nothing to lose. We are in the middle of the race.

"I think it will continue but it was such a big match to keep the advantage, we have worked so hard in the last week and like I said it is very important that we have a clear mind and nothing to regret for the Wednesday game.

"Then comes the Wednesday game and then look at our fixtures, you see how tough it is. We take nothing for granted, we work hard and keep our head down, feet on the ground and try to the best we can."

Thomas Tuchel has outlined how he wants to strengthen Chelsea's squad in the transfer window but says he will not be "angry" if he misses out on his top targets.

Tuchel fell out with Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo after making it clear that he felt the Ligue 1 champions should have done more business in order for his previous employers to kick on this season.

That was not the first time the straight-talking German has had his differences with the hierarchy at clubs over transfer dealings.

Erling Haaland and Romelu Lukaku are among the players to be linked with a move to Stamford Bridge and Tuchel says he rightly has been involved with putting plans in place for recruitment.

"I have opinions about what we can add to the group to get better," Tuchel said. "This is my job. I will give my opinion when I am asked my opinion.

"We will do this and sometimes your opinions change and this is also a process.

"I have my ideas, of course. I have my ideas for certain profiles. It is not about me wishing for player A and player B and if they don't come, I will get angry. It was never like this in my whole career and it will never be like this.

"I understand that there are issues to solve with the agents, the players and the interests of the club. It is not only about me and my wishes. This is the baseline for all talks that we have here. Of course, we talk about it.

"I talk with the club, I give my opinion and talk about it with the scouting department. I am involved and I should be involved. I have the feeling that I am involved.

"The players that we have all have fantastic personalities and right now is even a moment where we get to know each other better and better.

"We have big games and crucial times ahead of us, so we will have a very clear picture of our group. The stronger they perform then the harder it is to improve this squad from the outside. But there's always room and ideas that we will find out.

"I have a strong feeling that we are not in a rush and we are not in a big need. We are very relaxed. Everyone is fully focused and it is not the time to get distracted with any of that."

Mateo Kovacic has suffered a setback in his recovery from a thigh strain, putting hopes of him featuring for Chelsea against Real Madrid in doubt.

The midfielder has not played for the Blues since a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on April 10.

He trained on Friday in the hope of perhaps being available for Saturday's Premier League clash with Fulham.

But he now looks set to miss that game and is a doubt for the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, with Chelsea holding an advantage on away goals after a 1-1 draw in Spain.

Asked about Kovacic's availability at a pre-match media conference, manager Thomas Tuchel replied: "He is still injured, he trained with us, he felt something at the end of the training so he's still not available.

"All other players are available except for Antonio Rudiger who got injured in the last minute of the Madrid game.

"Before today, before training we thought Kova had a big chance to join us at the latest for Madrid, so now we have a little setback, not a big one.

"With him I don't want to be too negative, let's see how he feels tomorrow and for Toni I'm quite positive for Wednesday."

Chelsea, who are three points clear of fifth-placed West Ham, can ill-afford to let up as they fight for a top-four finish that would secure their Champions League place for next season while aiming to win it this term.

After the Fulham game, Tuchel's men have the second leg against Madrid and then face Manchester City and Arsenal prior to the FA Cup final with Leicester City on May 15.

Tuchel conceded it can be difficult to find balance in his team amid such a hectic schedule, adding: "We are in the middle of the race, is it always easy to switch from one competition to another? No, but who cares?

"Everybody can do easy. It's our job to switch focus and it's my job to find the mix, to put the players in the right mindset and to prepare this match in the way that everybody understands the importance of the match.

"We did not work that hard, and I hope the players feel the same, they did not work that hard all these weeks, all these matches to give us this advantage just to let it slip through our hands by not being focused.

"It's [the schedule] brutal honestly. We played in France [at PSG] the same amount of games, two cups and also 20 teams in the league so we got the impression. But, of course, the intensity of the league, the challenge of the league is very, very different now here.

"It is another level, it's quite relentless. But it keeps you on your front foot and it keeps you coming out of bed early. There is simply no time to breathe, there is no time to sit back and get too relaxed or comfortable. This is a good thing, it sharpens your mind, it sharpens your mentality.

"This is what I find very impressive in this club, everybody is on the front foot, everybody in the club is fully aware of what it takes to be in shape, this is very impressive and that's why, although it's super demanding, we feel very comfortable because we arrive any game with the knowledge and deep conviction that we are prepared for this, we can perform at this level and we can adapt."

Thomas Tuchel has told misfiring Chelsea forward Timo Werner that it is no time to cry over his form in front of goal.

Werner has struggled to replicate the form that saw him score 28 goals in 34 Bundesliga appearances for RB Leipzig last season since joining the Blues in a £47.5million deal.

The Germany international scored the only goal in a vital 1-0 win at West Ham on Saturday – his sixth in 31 Premier League outings.

However, his demons in front of goal returned during Tuesday's 1-1 Champions League semi-final draw at Real Madrid as he volleyed a glorious close-range opportunity too close to Thibaut Courtois.

Werner's four shots were more than any of his Chelsea team-mates, with two on target and one blocked before he was withdrawn in favour of compatriot Kai Havertz midway through the second-half.

"He missed a big one at West Ham, now he missed another big one here," Tuchel told a news conference after Karim Benzema's well-taken volley cancelled out Christian Pulisic's 14th-minute opener.

"That does not help, but it also does not help to cry about it or to regret it all the time.

"It's like this. There are millions of people who have harder things to deal with than chances that you miss.

"This is the good thing about sports. Nobody cares tomorrow. Today we were sad, we were angry in the moment.

"This is normal. He is angry, he is maybe disappointed. Tomorrow he has a free day and then the next day he has to put his chin up."

Werner has scored six non-penalty goals for Chelsea across the Premier League and Champions League, with his shots in those competitions adding up to an expected goals (xG) figure of 13.4 – underlining his woes.

However, the 25-year-old's selfless running and work rate has been valuable to Tuchel since he succeeded Frank Lampard in January.

Although he did not create any chances for his colleague in the Spanish capital, Werner has supplied eight assists amid his Premier League and Champions League efforts this term.

"He is a professional guy, he is a top guy. He works hard, he is in the positions and from there on we go," Tuchel added.

"We will never stop pushing, we will never stop believing. I have the feeling that everybody accepts the situation as it is.

"As a striker it is easy – you score the next game and nobody speaks."

Thomas Tuchel was left frustrated by Chelsea's finishing in Tuesday's 1-1 Champions League semi-final first-leg draw with Real Madrid, adamant they would have been deserved winners had they shown more "composure and precision".

Chelsea took the lead in Madrid thanks to Christian Pulisic's fine individual work in the 14th minute, though they should have already been in front.

Just a few moments earlier, Timo Werner latched on to a Pulisic header across goal but shot at Thibaut Courtois from close range when he seemed destined to score.

The German also missed a decent chance late in the first half, with Karim Benzema having equalised in the interim period.

But that Benzema strike was Madrid's only shot on target, the first time since at least 2003-04 that Los Blancos have had so few in a home Champions League match.

Madrid have progressed from their two previous Champions League knockout ties with English opposition when drawing the first leg at home, though, and Tuchel rued his side's inability to finish them off at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

"We started very well, very aggressive with courage and quality. We deserved to win the first half," he told BT Sport. "We had lots of chances and half-chances where we missed precision with the last ball.

"Unfortunately they scored from a set piece – nothing else normally for us to defend, we didn't allow any chances – so it was a disappointing result at half-time.

"It was important that we stayed calm, didn't lose confidence and we fought back into the game.

"I felt the second half was a tactical game and the speed and intensity dropped. You could feel that we were a bit tired with only two days between two away games. We suffered today from that.

"If we had one more day to recover we would have had a big chance to keep the intensity up and maybe hurt Madrid also in the second half. This was not possible and we have to live with 1-1."

Tuchel felt their initial one-goal lead was more than justified and reiterated his opinion Madrid were fortunate to be level at the interval.

The German, who is the only Champions League coach to face Madrid five times without losing, then allowed a little frustration at his team's finishing to come to light.

"It was well deserved [Pulisic's goal] and, like I said, we should have won the first half," he continued.

"We should have scored a minimum one more goal. The chances were there, the half-chances were there, we had many ball wins, good control, good attacks. We were very confident, looked very strong.

"The goal came more or less out of nothing but that can always happen when you are faced with individual quality from Real Madrid.

"A bit more composure and precision in front of goal and we could have won the first half and been a deserved winner. It's not like this, so we live with 1-1 and try to win the next game."

The two teams meet again at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, with Tuchel aiming to reach a second successive Champions League final having lost in last season's showpiece with Paris Saint-Germain.

West Ham defender Fabian Balbuena has had his three-match ban overturned after an independent commission accepted his sending off against Chelsea was "wrongful".

Thomas Tuchel's Blues clinched a potentially vital win in the race for a top-four finish against surprise Champions League hopefuls West Ham, with Timo Werner's goal enough to seal all three points at London Stadium.

West Ham's hopes of pushing for a late equaliser were dashed when Balbuena saw red in the 81st minute.

While clearing the ball down the line on West Ham's right flank, Balbuena – seemingly inadvertently – caught Ben Chilwell on his follow-through.

Referee Chris Kavanagh initially booked Balbuena but, after consultation with the VAR, went over to assess the incident on the pitchside monitor and subsequently changed his decision to a straight red card – a call that infuriated Hammers boss David Moyes.

However, the FA has revealed an independent panel has deemed Kavanagh's decision to be erroneous.

An FA statement read: "An independent regulatory commission has removed Fabian Balbuena's three-match suspension following a successful claim of wrongful dismissal.

"The West Ham defender was dismissed for serious foul play during a Premier League fixture against Chelsea on Saturday."

As such, Balbuena will be able to feature against Burnley on Monday, as West Ham resume their quest for a top-four finish.

The defeat to Chelsea left them three points adrift of Tuchel's men in fourth.

When FIFA announced last year they were set to introduce limits on the number of players teams could send out on loan, unsurprisingly many people's first thoughts turned to Chelsea.

At the time, the Blues had a remarkable 28 players at other clubs, though this was by no means a recent trend; in 2018-19, that figure was 41.

The 'hoarding' of talent might be a solid ploy when looking to stunt the growth of a rival team or generate long-term revenue on Football Manager, but in the real world it was a practice that had long attracted criticism.

While by no means the only club in the world to have lots of young players out on loan, Chelsea have – rightly or wrongly – arguably been the most synonymous with it.

Some feel this has directly contributed to the club's struggles in developing homegrown talent because they have so many players, whereas others point out it offers more players the chance to play first-team football at a higher level than the Under-23s.

Putting aside some of the moral issues, Mason Mount falls into the latter category and proves there is a route to the first team through the fog of war for Chelsea's loan army.

By his own admission Mount needed an extra kick when he was in Chelsea's Under-23s as an 18-year-old, and that led to his temporary switch to the Eredivisie with Vitesse, where he won the club's Player of the Year award.

But it's unlikely even he realised how important his next move would be as he linked up with Chelsea great Frank Lampard.

In at the deep end

Mount made 44 appearances across all competitions for Derby County in 2018-19 as they missed out on promotion in the play-off final, but regardless of that ultimate disappointment it proved a massive year for both he and Lampard.

With Maurizio Sarri departing Stamford Bridge to join Juventus following Europa League success, Lampard was brought back to the club as head coach. Given his status and the trust he placed in young players – and, more pertinently, young players owned by Chelsea – at Derby, Lampard was seen as the ideal candidate to guide the team through a transfer embargo by bringing through homegrown talent.

Whether or not Lampard was a success as Chelsea coach is a discussion for another time, but his faith in Mount was unquestionable, chucking him straight into the team on the first day of the 2019-20 season.

The Blues suffered a rather harsh 4-0 defeat at Manchester United, but Mount didn't look out of his depth in the Premier League.

He clearly earnt the trust of his manager, with Lampard using the midfielder in 37 league matches over the course of the season, more than any other player. Across all competitions, the young Englishman made a whopping 53 appearances, missing just two games all year.

Mount finished his debut season with 12 goal involvements (seven scored, five set up), a figure bettered by only Tammy Abraham (18), Willian (16) and Christian Pulisic (13) in the Chelsea squad.

But that doesn't quite tell the whole story. To say he was consistent throughout the season would be a lie, as after the turn of the year there was a growing sense of frustration regarding his form. Between the start of November and the final day of the season, his three assists amounted to a couple of corner deliveries for Antonio Rudiger to head home, and a free-kick against Arsenal that Bernd Leno made a mess of. Mount's one open-play assist of 2019-20 came on the final day of the season against Wolves.

Some felt Mount was being overworked by Lampard, others put his issues down to being used in a variety of roles.

The 'teacher's pet' tag began to raise its head, with Lampard's almost incessant use of Mount leading to suggestions of preferential treatment.

Getting past this was going to be Mount's Everest.

A star of his own merit

When Thomas Tuchel was hired as Lampard's replacement in January, there wouldn't have been too many particularly worried for Mount's future given he had been a fixture in the team, his 2,130 minutes played across all competitions the most of anyone in the Blues' squad.

But when Mount was dropped for the German's first game in charge, Tuchel's decision certainly made people sit up and take note.

While he explained it away as opting to go with experience, dropping Mount suggested he had to earn his place again.

And it would be fair to say he's risen to the challenge.

"I understood and wanted to get back into the team, so that motivation and that fire that I have inside me came out," Mount said at a news conference last month. "I really tried to push to get back into the team. It's been brilliant."

Since then, he's become more productive almost across the board in the final third under Tuchel than he had been for Lampard in 2020-21.

Seemingly one of the main contributing factors is his role. While Lampard used Mount in numerous positions, Tuchel has largely deployed him further up the pitch in an attempt to get him closer to the opposition's penalty area.

Touch maps show a significant change between the two coaches' usage of the 21-year-old. While Mount's touches per 90 are almost identical under the two managers, Lampard deployed Mount deeper than his German successor, while Tuchel has shown a clear desire to get him on the ball in more advanced areas.

So much of the positive work that Mount does with the ball is not captured in goals and assists, the baseline figures that many would deem the primary indicator of an attacking midfielder's contribution. His link play and overall involvement in Chelsea’s attack can be highlighted by sequences framework.

In the 14 games since Tuchel's arrival, only Bruno Fernandes (91) has been involved in more open play sequences (or 'passages of play') that have resulted in a shot than Mount's 86. This figure translates to 7.6 sequences per 90 minutes, which is a big increase on the 5.6 per 90 he was involved in during Lampard's 18 top-flight games this term.

Not only is Mount involved more heavily in Chelsea's attacking play under Tuchel, but his involvement is generating better quality chances. The expected goals value from these sequences has increased from 0.43 per 90 minutes under Lampard to 0.7 under Tuchel. Simply put, Chelsea are creating greater quality chances with Mount further up the pitch.

Similarly, the England international's six goal-ending sequences in the same period are more than any of his team-mates have contributed to.

Even though he's still without a single open-play assist in 2020-21, it's clear to see that Mount's strong associative talents and ability to play tidily in busier areas of the pitch make him a real asset to Tuchel, who has acted quickly to shift him into a position that seemingly suits him better. He's also proving more decisive, with four of his six Premier League goals coming since January 25 – that's more than any of his team-mates in that period.

In general, though, scoring has been a bit of an issue for Chelsea. The likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz haven't properly hit their stride yet, and this has undoubtedly impacted Mount's baseline assist numbers, as his expected assists total from open play is 4.1. With more clinical finishing he wouldn't still be sat on zero.

Mount's form lately suggests that once Chelsea begin to click in front of goal, he'll be key to much of their build-up if he's not the one finishing the chances.

Another string to Mount's bow is that he is a genuine set-piece specialist. His corner deliveries are consistently dangerous, and he's created more chances from set plays (38) in 2020-21 than any other player. That's six more than James Ward-Prowse and 16 more than Trent Alexander-Arnold, both of whom have received acclaim for their set-piece prowess over the years.

When thinking of players you might consider to be particularly good at dead-ball situations, Mount may not be the first that comes to mind among non-Chelsea fans, but maybe he should be.

An unsung hero

Mount's improvements certainly don't begin and end with his creativity in the final third, however. Tuchel's preference to play him more centrally is also leading to greater off-the-ball productivity.

He's always been a hard worker and certainly couldn't be accused of neglecting the less glamorous side of the game, yet his role for Tuchel seems to be harnessing his attitude and tirelessness even more effectively.

Mount is averaging 2.2 attempted tackles per 90 minutes under Tuchel, up from 1.7 across Lampard's time at the club. While he may be winning tackles at an almost identical rate (0.95 per 90 mins, up from 0.93), the increase in challenge attempts suggests Mount's work rate makes him a good fit for Tuchel's intense pressing system.

Since the German's first game in charge, Chelsea have the lowest PPDA (9.2) in the Premier League, proof that they press higher than anyone else. PPDA is the number of opposition passes allowed outside of the pressing team's own defensive third, divided by the number of defensive actions by the pressing team outside of their own defensive third. A lower figure indicates a higher level of pressing.

Mount leads Tuchel's press from the front. The midfielder has won possession in the final third 17 times in 19 games for Tuchel. Over the same period, İlkay Gundogan (20), Mohamed Salah (20) and Kevin De Bruyne (23) are the only Premier League players to have a better record than the Chelsea star across all competitions.

A homegrown beacon of hope

Throughout Roman Abramovich's time as Chelsea owner, the club has often found itself in a sort of purgatory. While they've undoubtedly wanted success and a first team full of homegrown talents, it's difficult to say they've truly struck a balance between the two.

After all, since the start of the century, Chelsea products reaching 100 Premier League appearances for the club have been a rarity.

John Terry, of course, leads the way, but beyond him it becomes a bit murky. John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic perhaps come closest to fitting the bill, though both did play senior football elsewhere before joining the club as teenagers.

Granted, Mount remains a little way off yet as well having played 69 times in the top-flight for Chelsea, but he's quickly making up ground.

Not too far behind him are Tammy Abraham (57), Callum Hudson-Odoi (55) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (54), while Andreas Christensen – at Chelsea since 2013 – has featured 72 times.

What's in store for their long-term futures at Chelsea remains to be seen – they are far less certain than Mount.

But Mount especially shows that where there wasn't much hope for young talent coming through at Chelsea in the past, now there is for arguably the first time in the Abramovich era.

The accusations of Mount being a 'teacher's pet' have faded. Tuchel has no ulterior motive to keep picking Mount other than the fact he wants to pick the best side to win games. And with just two defeats in his first 21 games for Chelsea in all competitions, the German is certainly doing just that.

It is business time in the Champions League as the 2020-21 semi-finals get under way with the first legs this week.

Chelsea visit Real Madrid, who have seen pre-match questions focus on their continued pursuit of the controversial European Super League.

In the other tie, Paris Saint-Germain are the only remaining outfit not to have signed up for the competition prior to its collapse, gaining favour with UEFA.

They have a tough ask against Manchester City, however, after Pep Guardiola's men collected their first piece of silverware this season in the EFL Cup final.

Using Opta data, we break down the two matches...

Real Madrid v Chelsea: Los Blancos yet to beat Blues or Tuchel

When English football fans consider their country's most-consistent representatives in the Champions League, Chelsea will not be the team that immediately springs to mind for most.

Yet this will be the Blues' eighth semi-final appearance at this stage of the competition, a record among Premier League sides, and they have every reason to feel positive about the Blues' chances here.

They have only lost the first leg in one of their previous seven Champions League semis and head into the tie in good shape domestically, with Thomas Tuchel inspiring a significant improvement in their fortunes since taking over in January.

The German was in charge of PSG as they lost in last season's final to Bayern Munich but boasts a strong record against Madrid, having faced them more often without losing in this competition than any other side (W1 D3). The only other coach to take them on as many times in the Champions League and not lose is Gerard Houllier (P4 W2 D2).

Further to that, Madrid's record against Chelsea is poor, as they've not won any of their three previous meetings. Los Blancos haven't faced any other side more often without winning in their entire history.

A key factor in Chelsea's run to the semis has been their solidity at the back, and Edouard Mendy has more than played his part.

The Frenchman has let in just two goals in his first nine Champions League matches; if he keeps a clean sheet on Tuesday, he will match the record set by ex-Madrid man Keylor Navas for fewest conceded in a goalkeeper's first 10 games.

Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester City: Pep back in the big time

If Madrid and Chelsea are vastly experienced at this level, the same is not exactly true of PSG and City. The Ligue 1 club are playing their third Champions League semi-final, while this is City's second.

Indeed, City have only progressed through one of their prior three semis in all European competitions, winning the Cup Winners' Cup on that occasion in 1970.

PSG are finally getting to grips with UEFA's premier club tournament, however, becoming only the third French team to reach the last four in consecutive seasons - after Saint-Etienne 1975-76 and Marseille 1990-91 in the European Cup - and bidding to be the ninth side to play back-to-back finals.

They will require a first win over City to get there, though, drawing two and losing the other of their previous three meetings. Only against Juventus (eight), Arsenal and Milan (both four) have PSG played more games without winning in their history.

And Guardiola, having finally returned to this stage, has the know-how his players might lack. This a record-equalling eighth Champions League semis appearance, level with Jose Mourinho.

Mauricio Pochettino, then Tottenham manager, eliminated Guardiola in their only past European clash two seasons ago at the quarter-final stage, although the Catalan coach has 10 career wins against the PSG boss.

Pochettino will rely heavily on Neymar, who has either scored (three) or assisted (one) in each of his previous three Champions League last-four outings, while Guardiola can turn to Kevin De Bruyne, with four goals and four assists across his past seven knockout appearances.

De Bruyne scored in both legs when City beat PSG in the 2015-16 quarter-finals and could join Neymar (four), Lionel Messi and Marcus Rashford (both three) in netting against the Parisians in three consecutive Champions League games.

A week on from the drama, controversy and anger surrounding the European Super League, it felt like football – rather than its potential ruin – was at the front of the agenda this weekend.

However, the spectre of the Super League continued to loom over much of the action, with many of the so-called "big six" seeing it used as a stick to beat them with as they largely stuttered to underwhelming results.

Of those in league action over the weekend (Manchester City beat Tottenham in the EFL Cup final), only Chelsea emerged victorious, as Manchester United and Liverpool were held, while Arsenal lost at home to Everton.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches…

Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle United: Reds to join exclusive list?

It was another underwhelming weekend for defending champions Liverpool, as their 1-1 draw at home to struggling Newcastle United saw them lose further ground in the fight for Champions League places.

Jurgen Klopp's men are four points adrift of Chelsea in fourth, after the Blues beat top-four rivals West Ham 1-0 at the London Stadium.

Liverpool have five matches to close the gap otherwise they face the prospect of an ignominious achievement.

Only five times before have the reigning Premier League champions failed to qualify for the Champions League the season after winning the title.

Manchester United were the first in 1994-95, also doing so in 2013-14. The other teams do this were Blackburn Rovers (1995-96), Chelsea (2015-16) and Leicester City (2016-17).

Wolves 0-4 Burnley: Wood and New Zealand join the United Nations of hat-tricks

Chris Wood enjoyed a weekend to remember as he netted his first Premier League hat-trick in Burnley's 4-0 win over Wolves.

In doing so, he became the first New Zealand national to score a treble in the competition, meaning there have been hat-tricks scored by 46 countries in the Premier League.

New Zealand has joined Gabon, South Korea, Venezuela, DR Congo, Japan, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paraguay, Iceland, Sweden, Costa Rica and Serbia on one.

England, unsurprisingly, leads the way with 154 hat-tricks from 69 individuals. Joint second with 18 each are Netherlands and Argentina, while France (17) and Spain (11) are the only other countries into double figures.

Leeds United 0-0 Manchester United: 'Boring, boring Man United'

Fans expecting a repeat of Manchester United's 6-2 thrashing of Leeds United will have been sorely disappointed, not just with the 0-0 draw, but also given it was a fairly drab encounter.

Sure, United have excited on occasion this season, that previous win over Leeds and the 9-0 demolition of Southampton immediately coming to mind.

But Sunday's stalemate was United's seventh 0-0 draw of the season, more than any other team in the Premier League.

On top of that, 2020-21 has now seen United play out more goalless draws than any other Premier League season.

They previously played out six in 2004-05 and 2016-17, but 2020-21 now leads the way.

West Ham 0-1 Chelsea: Tuchel's at home on the road

Thomas Tuchel has made a fine impression at Chelsea since replacing Frank Lampard in January. The achievements seem to be piling up.

Chelsea's latest win saw them leave London rivals West Ham with a 1-0 win that moved them back into the top four at the expense of David Moyes' boys.

As such, he became the first Chelsea manager to avoid defeat in his first 10 away games across all competitions.

The previous club record was set by William Lewis over 100 years ago in 1906-07, when they went nine unbeaten on the road.

Tuchel also matched the record set by Luiz Felipe Scolari for the number of clean sheets (10) in his first 14 Premier League matches.

What's even more impressive about that is it's a league record, rather than just relevant to Chelsea.

Thomas Tuchel believes Chelsea can overcome a lack of Champions League semi-final experience by playing with hunger and enthusiasm when they go up against Real Madrid.

The Blues have made it through to the last four of Europe's premier club competition for the first time since 2013-2014, a season that finished with Madrid winning the trophy in Lisbon.

Los Blancos also won the competition for three successive seasons during Zinedine Zidane's first spell in charge, with many of the key players involved in that impressive hat-trick still at the club now.

However, Tuchel feels his Chelsea squad are in "a good moment" heading into Tuesday's first leg in the Spanish capital.

"Every match I feel that we are able to play on a very high level," Tuchel, who confirmed Mateo Kovacic will miss the game in Madrid through injury, told the media.

"If it's not possible to play our nicest match, we are always able to not let the opponents play their best match – which is also a definition of performance.

"We have a strong bond; I feel a strong bond within the squad. I feel us very involved physically in the games, ready to work together, to suffer together and, when it's needed, to respond to the questions. If it's necessary to fight, then fight; if it's necessary to run, then run.

"We should not expect crazy things from us, but the same again on the highest level.

"The good thing is we have had the experiences together, tough matches, tight matches, very important matches in the Premier League and the FA Cup, so we feel it's a good moment to play this match.

"We want to play hungry; we want to play adventurous. Maybe, considering a lack of experience in semi-finals, to compensate with hunger and enthusiasm."

Both Chelsea and Madrid were involved in the doomed European Super League proposal, leading to speculation they could be kicked out of this season's Champions League as a consequence.

While that has not happened, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has made clear there will be consequences for the 12 clubs involved.

"We deserve to be in the semi-final, like Real Madrid deserve to be," Tuchel said. "We have come a long way.

"Of course we deserve to play in a semi-final. If problems persist on a sports political level then they have to be solved at that level, not on the pitch.

"We deserve, through the competition, to be here."

UEFA announced Champions League reforms last week, including an increase in number of teams from 32 to 36 as the format switches to a league system for the 2024-25 season.

The changes will see more matches for those teams concerned, leaving Tuchel to question why coaches and players were not involved in the planning process.

"I'm not sure if I like it, because I can only see more games out of it," he said when asked about the new-look competition.

"More games in the schedule that we have is very hard for me to be excited at all. All the discussions about Super League made us forget that we have a new format of the Champions League.

"Did they ask any coach about this? I don't think so – they didn't ask me. Did they ask any player about this? I don't think so.

"We have so many new formats, so many more games. It's more, more games. It's not more quality, it's just more games.

"Who should play in these games? We have three substitutes allowed in the Premier League, one of the toughest competitions. No, I'm not happy about this new format at all."

Page 1 of 26
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.