Thomas Tuchel is confident Chelsea can close the gap to a Manchester City side he believes are the “benchmark” in European football alongside Bayern Munich for 90 minutes in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.
Tuchel has never beaten a side managed by Guardiola during his career, having met the Catalan tactician five times across spells in charge of Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, earning two draws against his opponent’s Bayern Munich side.
Both Chelsea and City are through to the semi-finals of the Champions League but, with the Blues 20 points behind Guardiola’s men domestically, Tuchel accepts his team are a long way off the standard set by the Premier League leaders.
Asked if, having always been an underdog against him in Germany, Tuchel’s Chelsea and Guardiola’s City can be considered equals at Wembley, Tuchel told a media conference: “Yes and no. We have to accept there is a gap between us and Manchester City.
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“If you look at the fixtures in the Premier League and if you look at the fixtures in the last few years we have to accept this. It’s important that we accept it but without making us too small.
“From day one next season we will hunt them and try to close the gap between us. For me, in Europe, there are two teams who are the benchmark: Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
“But I know what you’re saying of course, he made it impossible for us to beat them with Mainz, I think we had two draws with Dortmund, one ended in the cup final in a penalty loss and we had another draw at home, so we came close, it’s time that we beat them, the next try is tomorrow.
“I don’t believe in how big clubs are, are we equal or not? We have to admit that there is a gap but for 90 minutes we are very self-aware and very self-confident that we truly believe we can close the gap for one game, this is the target for tomorrow and I arrive with a team that I’m absolutely happy to arrive, to compete against the benchmark in England and Europe.
“We don’t have the momentum of football on our side. If we want to have this we have to play on our top level, to force things and need a bit of luck.
“If we manage to beat them it will be a huge boost if not we will have to accept and take it as a challenge and opportunity to grow because we have some fights coming up. It’s not only about the FA Cup, it’s about the top-four race and the Champions League.”
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