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Chelsea FC won’t fear Real Madrid or Liverpool with Thomas Tuchel’s side built for Champions League success

James Robson
·4-min read
<p>Chelsea are through to the Champions League semi-finals</p> (Getty Images)

Chelsea are through to the Champions League semi-finals

(Getty Images)

Thomas Tuchel has told his Chelsea players to embrace their Champions League adventure.

A fitting choice of words, given that they will have to slay one of the true giants of European football to progress to May’s Final in Istanbul.

Liverpool and Real Madrid - with 19 Champions Leagues or European Cups between them - fight on Wednesday for the right to face Tuchel’s team in the semi-final.

Forget adventure, Chelsea’s manager is in fantasy land, having the luxury of musing over which of the two sides he would rather face in the next round.

“In general, I like not to play against teams from your same league,” he said after a 1-0 quarter-final second leg defeat to Porto that saw Chelsea triumph 2-1 on aggregate.

If the question were put to Liverpool or Madrid, neither would pick the west Londoners as ideal opposition in the semis. No one would.

Mehdi Taremi’s injury-time overhead kick gave Porto something to show for 180 minutes of frustration - but it did nothing to alter the impression that this was a professional performance from Chelsea, having effectively won the tie after last week’s first leg.

It took a moment of genius with virtually the last kick of the match for Porto to lay a glove on them.

Liverpool and Madrid are a different prospect, but Tuchel has organised a team tailor-made for European football. They look impervious to the type of emotion-fuelled nights that have been so key to the successes of their potential semi-final opponents - especially without the prospect of a packed out Bernabeu or Anfield.

Having done to Atletico Madrid what Atletico so often do to others in the round of 16, Chelsea comfortably avoided the potential of an upset against a Porto side that caught out Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus to get here.

They look capable of adapting to any opponent, which is what makes them so dangerous in knockout competition.

Tuchel has made them an awkward team to play; they are a team that it is difficult to look good against.

There is precious little space to get around the sides of, or behind, their three-man defence. In N’Golo Kante and Jorginho they have a shield that constantly stops attacks at source.

The threat of their wing-backs flying forward forces opponents to check their own ambitions. And on nights like Tuesday, their forwards are the first line of defence.

That, in particular, can be to the detriment of their own attacking threat. On Tuesday, it took until the dying moments for Christian Pulisic to register their one and only shot on target, but it was not their obligation to entertain against a stubborn Porto side forced to go in search of goals.

Tuchel came up with the right game plan - Taremi’s goal notwithstanding - to get the job done.

In less than three months since he took over at Stamford Bridge, there has been little to suggest he will not devise an effective strategy against either Liverpool or Madrid, too.

He has already got the better of Jurgen Klopp at Anfield this season, so why should he fear the fallen Premier League champions? Likewise, a Madrid team that look far less daunting than the side that won three Champions League trophies in succession between 2016 and 2018?

Even if, as Tuchel points out, they lack the pedigree of either of those sides, having reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

“When you look on the scoresheet last week, you saw two players [Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell] who scored their first goals in the competition,” he said.

“When you look at Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, [Karim] Benzema or [Mo] Salah score, it is their 50th or 100th goal or something.

“We arrived with a very young team. We want a young team to turn it around. What a young team can do is run, fight and hang in there. It is an adventure for them. It is a big step to be here.

“You see when Chelsea was last in the semi-final. We are not used to being there. Once you are there, you play for the Final. This is clear.

“We take every minute to learn and grow. You cannot improve without these experiences, so we are doing it now during the process.”

The adventure continues.

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