Thomas Tuchel is eager to see how his players react to their first defeat since he took charge as manager and expects a tough game against Porto.
After losing to West Brom in the Premier League at the weekend, Chelsea must now show a response. Their first opportunity to do so will be against Porto in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie. The game takes place in Seville on Wednesday.
Tuchel has had a lot to reflect on in the days since the 5-2 loss to West Brom. Coming against a side in the relegation zone, it was one of the shocks of the season.
The result clearly had an impact on the squad, with tensions running high at training the following day. Such matters have now been resolved, but Tuchel has still had to consider what went wrong in their most recent outing.
“It’s very natural there is a reaction to a result and game like this,” he said. “So it is necessary to adapt.
“It is a strong part of sports at this level that the guys hate to lose. So if we suffer a big loss in a weird game, it’s normal there are reactions.
“Clearly there are lines we don’t want to overstep. This happened one day after the match but now things are sorted out. My talk after the game isn’t to be too harsh or emotional; the risk is you regret what you say.
“You have to swallow and accept we lost them game. Then it’s important that we are reliable in analysing the game. We can’t only do meetings depending on the result – we can be critical after wins and we can point out things we like even though we lost 5-2.
“We won all the statistics against West Brom: expected goals, touches in the box, shots on target. If we played the same game again, I bet 99 times out of 100 that we win the game.”
Chelsea slipped out of the top four after the defeat was followed by West Ham beating Wolves. However, there are still plenty of games to go to ensure qualification for the competition they are playing in on Wednesday.
Tuchel admitted that both he and his squad were hard on themselves after losing. But now he is ready to see the next step from his players.
“We need to win games, that was clear,” he said. “We will never accept a game we concede five goals at home, even with a man down.
“I feel the players were very hard on themselves and I am very hard on myself too.
“It was a big slap in the face. But it was my job as a coach not to get lost in my emotions, anger and disappointment. I have to get up and watch the game again.
“Clearly there were things we should’ve done better and had better behaviour on the pitch: how we attack, distances on the pitch, passing to escape pressure. We did mistakes we haven’t done before. So now is the moment to improve.
“There are a lot of circumstances you have to accept. We had a break, we got a lot of praise; we played an early match on Saturday, and still we have to accept as a coach.
“But we produced crucial numbers and statistics that are enough to win any game, even the same game. So it was a strange outcome of a strange game.
“We had problems but it wasn’t a question of character. Now we have had a setback. Maybe it reminds all of us, me included, that the race isn’t finished.
“West Ham took advantage and we have to accept it. It’s only our fault we lost the game; our fault we conceded a red card, our fault about how we behaved after that. Now we have to deal with the consequences.
“Even if we hate to lose, and at Chelsea we hate to lose, it’s about the reaction. When you go 14 games without a loss, everyone feels good. But now is the next step in our development.”
Tuchel turns attention to Porto
One boost for Tuchel is that Porto will be missing some key players from suspension in the first leg of the tie. However, the Blues boss knows they must be aware of the threat those opponents could pose in the return leg as well.
“We had an almost similar situation against Atletico with Trippier, Carrasco and Gimenez coming back in the second leg and we won 2-0,” he said, before urging focus from his players.
“It’s the quarter-final of the Champions League. So you play four halves that you need to be fully focused for, self-aware of our strengths, what our attacking patterns are that we want find after the international break and our game on Saturday.
“The challenge is to be totally focused on our strengths and to narrow the focus to 45 minutes and then another 45 minutes.”
Chelsea thought they had a favourable draw when they found out they would be facing Porto. But now their opponents may have confidence as they look to take advantage of the doubts hovering over Tuchel’s side since their defeat.
The manager, though, remains confident of getting the better of the Portuguese side.
“If we needed a reminder, we will take it as a big slap in the face that result. Let’s take it like this,” he said. “Honestly, I could not see it coming, even after the match when I watched the video.
“I was tempted to bet a lot of money in the 45th minute that we would win the game. I didn’t see it coming.
“We got a big slap in the face and if it was required to remind us how tough it is to have clean sheets and keep winning, we keep it like this. It’s normal that people create stories around this and it’s normal that Porto create the underdog.
“We play in any team. We come from a competition that we are able to lose against the team 19th in the table 5-2. So we know how humble you have to be in every game.
“In the quarter-finals of the Champions League, if you wish for an opponent you will lose yourself in crazy mind games.
“I have the feeling we can overcome Porto but it will be a tough match. They are a very experienced side in this competition, champions for many years in Portugal. This makes a certain mentality.
“But we are strong enough and believe in ourselves that we can overcome this round.”