Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel has put the disappointment of FA Cup final defeat behind him knowing the Premier League rematch against Leicester tonight is the one that really matters.
The Chelsea manager does not want to detract from the Foxes’ joy at lifting the famous trophy for the first time in the club’s history.
But from the day he was brought into Stamford Bridge to get the club back into the Champions League – so the three points at stake tonight are worth more than a 149-year-old piece of silverware.
So this is the big one.
“We lost a big match, it was a huge match for us, we put out the best team possible, we did not rest anybody because we had the feeling that this game is more important,” he said.
“But… but there is a but. Do we want to play Champions League next season? Yes, this is the target when I stepped into this club I want to be very clear – the task was ‘let’s try everything to be in the top four’.
“The task was not ‘let’s try everything to win the FA Cup’ because the FA Cup, as big as it is, does not bring you to Champions League football next season. It’s top four that brings us that.”
If Liverpool win their last two games against Burnley away and Crystal Palace, they are guaranteed to finish in the top four.
If Chelsea beat Leicester, they just have to beat Aston Villa on the last day to qualify – otherwise Leicester can still pip Tuchel’s side if they beat Spurs in their own final game.
Chelsea fans could not quite believe their luck as Thomas Tuchel led them to two finals on top of his bid to finish in the top four.
Now, though, the German fears his players may have “mentally suffered” from the exhaustion of chasing success on three fronts.
Since he first took training just 24 hours before facing Wolves back in January, he has driven his players for more and more as the wins kept on coming.
Even beating Real Madrid comfortably over two legs was not enough – there was still the FA Cup final to prepare for while continuing to collect those vital Premier League points.
“Suddenly you end up in a pretty busy schedule and honestly we also mentally suffered from it,” Tuchel said.
“This race to top four, we were constantly pushing, pushing, pushing to close the gap.
“All this was very demanding. Until today we took credit for that with our decisions but you can never be sure it’s the right decision.
“You can never reverse and know what would have happened if Timo Werner had played against Arsenal – would he have scored or not?
“Sometimes you regret your decisions as a coach. But you don’t know, maybe you’d have regretted it more if you let Christian play again in the final. He was in a risk of maybe re-injury and that would have been a bigger regret for me.”
Amid all this indecision, one thing does seem more certain. Tammy Abraham, left out of the cup final squad altogether, seems to have very little future at Chelsea under Tuchel.
“We decided not to have three number nines on the bench,” he said. “This is it, it’s never personal.
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“And when Mateo Kovacic and Andreas Christensen, maybe, come back into the squad, I need to figure out the squad and maybe eliminate two more players.”
With his wife finally visiting from Germany, Tuchel is trying as much as he can to relax, but things are rather conspiring against him.
“Well that didn’t make things boring in the Premier League, that late goal from Alisson!” he said by way of introduction to his press conference ahead of this game.
“I came home in the afternoon and I switched on the TV and saw 1-1. I thought ‘oh, that wouldn’t be a bad result’.
“I was a bit superstitious so I did not follow it. Instead, I checked on my phone in the 95th minute and it was still 1-1.
“I checked one minute later and I realised that superstitions don’t always work, or maybe I made the wrong decision if they do work!
“It means these are the two decisive weeks now of the whole season. But this is not the moment to complain, and this is not the moment to explain too much. This is the moment just to live in the moment.”