Thomas Tuchel has said that he understands why Pep Guardiola believes the entire country wants Liverpool to win the title but Chelsea’s manager does not mind if his side are “the bad guys” in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Asked about Guardiola’s claim that “people want Liverpool to win more than us”, Tuchel was quick to side with Manchester City’s manager. “I’m not a Liverpool fan,” he said. “I can understand why he has that feeling. In general I would say it is hard to really argue with it. I did not say I agree 100% but I can see. There is a huge sympathy for Liverpool in the country.”
Tuchel was in an entertaining mood before Chelsea attempt to avoid defeat in the Cup final for the third consecutive year. He spoke admiringly of Jürgen Klopp’s oratorical skills, affectionately referring to his fellow German as “Kloppo”, as he considered why people are more sympathetic towards Liverpool.
“Kloppo is the master of being the underdog,” he said. “He can talk you into being the underdog against Villarreal and against Benfica, and it’s a miracle how they even draw against them. He does it all the time. That’s part of it, where the sympathy comes.
“There’s nothing to be jealous of; Kloppo is a fantastic guy, funny guy, one of the best coaches in the world and that’s what he does. When he trained Dortmund, the whole country loved Dortmund. Now he trains Liverpool and you have the feeling the whole country loves Liverpool.
“It’s a big credit to him and this is what you deal with if you play a team against him. But it’s always the fun part and so if we are the bad guys tomorrow, then no problem. We take that role. We don’t want to have the sympathy of the country tomorrow – we want to have the trophy.”
Tuchel, who hopes N’Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovacic will be fit to start in midfield, admitted that Liverpool’s history wins them support. “It is also because of Jürgen, but in general what this club stands for and how they run the business, and how the fans push their team. If you fight against it, like Pep for many, many years, I can understand that it feels sometimes like this.”
It was put to Tuchel, whose side were unfortunate to lose the Carabao Cup final to Liverpool on penalties, that he can match Klopp’s charisma. “Just be self-confident and do your thing,” he said. “I was even the guy after him at Dortmund. But I have nothing but biggest respect for what he’s doing. He is like one with the supporters and the club. He is the charismatic leader of this huge club. My players have to step up against it and I have to step up against it. We cannot be bullied. It is not possible.”
Tuchel, who had lunch on Thursday with the prospective new owner Todd Boehly, said victory for Chelsea would make up for their failure to challenge City and Liverpool in the league. Chelsea, who have won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup, know they can derail Liverpool’s quadruple bid. Tuchel expects a tight game and he will tell his side to target Liverpool’s high defensive line.
“They allow chances,” he said. “We proved it – we had big chances in the Carabao Cup final. But it’s their approach. They are the team who put strikers of other teams into offside by far the most. They only play this high line because they always have pressure on the ball. It’s very hard to exploit these spaces because you need perfect timing. But you can find solutions if you have a perfect day.”
Tuchel hinted that Romelu Lukaku, who has three goals in his last two games, could start. But he admitted he could have done without the distraction of Lukaku’s agent, Federico Pastorello, saying he plans to hold talks with Chelsea’s new owners over the striker’s future. Pastorello admitted “there was a problem” earlier this season but he dismissed suggestions of the Belgian joining Internazionale or Milan this summer.
Lukaku distanced himself from his agent’s comments. “Never ever will I let someone speak for me,” he said on Instagram. “I kept my mouth shut and focused on helping the team the best way as possible. So if someone out there trying to say something about me and the club… not in my name.”