Thomas Tuchel admitted nobody likes it when asked how his Chelsea squad have reacted to Antonio Rudiger’s impending exit, and let slip his own future plans soon after.
Chelsea still have work to do in their quest to qualify for next season’s Champions League. The Blues had appeared all set to make the title race a three-way affair. However, a run of five draws and one defeat in a seven-game span between December-January laid waste to their hopes.
Four months on and Chelsea sit seven points inside the top four. While it would take something of a collapse not to finish inside the top four from here, stranger things have happened before.
A win against Manchester United on Thursday will settle any lingering nerves and the Red Devils are arguably the league’s choice opponent at present.
United’s campaign is in freefall with performances on the pitch reaching new lows week after week.
However, speaking in his pre-match press conference (via Football London), Chelsea boss Tuchel warned his players against taking United for granted.
“I’m personally very happy to play against Manchester United at Old Trafford,” said Tuchel.
“I arrive with a strong club. I’m happy to have this match and it will always be a big match for me no matter what form they are in.
“That’s why we prepare in the best possible way. We focus on their last matches, we should not get confused by their lack of points, their squad is full of quality.”
Chelsea squad’s response to Rudiger news
Antonio Rudiger could feature after returning to training following a groin complaint. The upcoming matches will be the German’s last at Stamford Bridge after it was recently confirmed he’ll leave for free this summer.
Tuchel has already gone on record to state his disappointment at losing such an inspiring performer. And when asked what the reaction had been from within the dressing room, Tuchel admitted no one has received the news warmly.
“I don’t think anybody likes it,” said Tuchel when asked specifically about the players’ response.
“He gives everybody confidence in the dressing room. He’s a unique character and plays on an outstanding level. He sometimes takes the focus towards him, he loves responsibility.
“I don’t think anybody likes this decision but we have to accept it. Like it or not there will be life at Chelsea after Toni. It is also the most important thing for us that it ends like it started, on the highest level.”
Replacing Rudiger will be a difficult task with centre-backs capable of operating on the left of a three in desperately short supply.
Antonio Rudiger is leaving Chelsea for Real Madrid confirmed
Antonio Rudiger is leaving Chelsea for Real Madrid this summer and is close to agreeing massive contract with Los Blancos
Villarreal’s Pau Torres could fit the bill, though competition from Manchester United is expected to be fierce.
When asked if Chelsea can thrive post-Rudiger, Tuchel stressed they can. In his response, he also let slip he’ll be at Chelsea next season and beyond.
“Yes, and it is my job,” added Tuchel. “No matter how the situation is solved and how active we can be in the transfer market, at the end we will dig in and we will try to squeeze out everything from the squad that we have.
“I will fall in love with the squad I have then and push it to the limit. It was a pleasure every single day with Toni, I am concerned that we have talked too much about it in the past because there are still big things to achieve.
“From pre-season next season, life will go on whether we are happy about it or not and I will be fully involved with all my heart and all my knowledge.”