Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel does not believe Saturday’s Champions League final against Manchester City will hinge upon the tactical battle between himself and Pep Guardiola.
Much has been made of Tuchel and Guardiola’s friendship and mutual admiration in the build-up to the showpiece encounter at Estadio do Dragao.
The former Paris Saint-Germain boss is back in the final less than a year after the Ligue 1 giants were beaten by Bayern Munich and he feels multiple factors will be at play – including Chelsea’s wins over City in the FA Cup and Premier League this season.
“It’s much more than that. I would never suggest that it’s me against him,” he told a pre-match news conference in Porto. “We don’t have a match of tennis tomorrow.
“We arrive with our teams. Pep will prepare his team and I will prepare my team in the best way possible.
“We have two different experiences against them in different competitions. Two different matches, two different line-ups. Tomorrow I think they will be a very different line-up from Man City.”
Guardiola heavily rotated his City line-up for the two most recent encounters against Chelsea, coming as they did on the back of Champions League quarter-final and semi-final triumphs over Borussia Dortmund and PSG.
Nevertheless, Tuchel appeared to differ from his counterpart’s assessment that those results had “zero” bearing over what will unfold this weekend.
“We have the experience of how much we have to suffer and how brave and courageous we need to play in certain moment of the game,” he said.
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“It’s always tough to play against City, Bayern or Barcelona when Pep is at the sideline. He creates these teams with huge belief and a continuously winning mentality.
“They are maybe, at the moment, the strongest team in the world. They have built a huge gap between them and us in the league.
“We closed the gap for 90 minutes at Wembley, we closed it for 90 minutes at City and this is what we want to do tomorrow.
“We are very well aware that Man City is the benchmark with this team and this manager over the last years, but in football you are always able to close the gap.
“We closed the gap twice. We were courageous, we were brave and we were suffering together. We had a strong belief and strong quality.”
Suffering is something Tuchel was happy to report had declined from view for N’Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy, with the influential midfielder and goalkeeper both passed fit.
Indeed, removing the mental strain has been a focus for the 47-year-old as his team aim to bounce back from defeat to Leicester City in the FA Cup final and losses in two of their final three Premier League games that saw them finish 19 points behind champions City.
“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to pretend this is a normal week,” he said. “Everybody feels different about it, but we arrive and the countdown is on for a big, big match.
“It’s a very exciting, demanding week mentally and physically. We have to get it right, the coaches have to get it right.
“Today was a very relaxed day, we had the possibility to enjoy some quality time in the hotel in beautiful weather to relax and breathe a bit, to connect with our core, with our love of the game and the passion we all shared as little kids.
“The tension is building very naturally. We don’t want to arrive in a final over-excited or arrive in a final under-excited.”
Tuchel added: “To be nervous, you can use it to be on your best level. Pressure is sometimes a huge boost and sometimes it is a big backpack to carry. Just admit it and let’s be who we are. We are a strong group.”
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