Thomas Tuchel believes Chelsea cannot hope to compete in a title battle with Manchester City when they are deprived of key players.
The Blues boss said Chelsea would have to “over-perform” to be in the Premier League trophy hunt, although he claims Pep Guardiola’s City side are beatable in any one-off game.
Chelsea travel to face City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, and defeat would see the European champions fall 13 points behind the leaders with 16 games remaining.
Tuchel has seen centre-back Andreas Christensen ruled out of the game after testing positive for COVID-19, and such cases, along with a string of recent injuries, have significantly weakened Chelsea.
Pointing to City’s strong record of keeping players available, Tuchel said that “maybe it’s luck or they do it better”.
Chelsea have elected to recall Kenedy from a loan spell at Flamengo to bolster their resources, and Tuchel said he could offer a solution at left wing-back, with Ben Chilwell sidelined.
City simply have strong options in every department, and Tuchel said: “They are the benchmark, they are the best team in England right now. This is something we have to admit realistically.
“We don’t think a lot in the scenarios of ‘what happens if?’. Let’s play the game. I’m always in for a good fight, but I’m also very realistic. We are always up for a good fight with Man City and always there to push them to the limit and ask them questions they maybe don’t like to answer.
“But they’re very strong, very consistent, and perform on the absolute highest level.
“They opened the gap not over the last month, but they opened the gap over the last years. We will come up with a plan and push and help and support in the best way with genuine belief, but a team is a different team if everybody is available.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 13, 2022
Reece James, Chelsea’s attacking right wing-back, is, like Chilwell, out for the long term, and the England duo have been sorely missed.
To lose Christensen is another major blow, and Tuchel said it made Chelsea’s task “even tougher”.
“But does that make it impossible? No,” he added. “For 90 minutes you can do anything, you can be brave, play with courage. You need a bit of luck.”
Tuchel said Chelsea took the “wrong approach” in their previous game with City this season, saying they were “too passive and too defensive” when losing 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September, declaring it was a “lesson learned”.
“We have a good squad with a fantastic mentality,” Tuchel said. “We need a bit more of a fight to bring out the extra edges.
“It’s not enough to find even 100 per cent; we need to over-perform to catch City to be on top of the Premier League. To over-perform, you need simply everybody.”
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