Thomas Tuchel has said that he knows what he is up against on Sunday, when Chelsea face Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea host United in west London this weekend, coming off the back of one of their biggest results all season. The Blues took a huge step forward in the Champions League by beating Atlético Madrid in Bucharest, but it will be another tough test when they meet the Red Devils in the Premier League.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Tuchel discussed the upcoming clash with Manchester United and what was at stake in the race for the top four.
“Hopefully we can win,” Tuchel said, “This is what we go for, we know that it’s a big challenge because of their unbeaten away record. We know what we are up against, a team that can hurt you any second with individual quality, with speed. They are a strong team away, they can defend very compactly, they’re very good in transition.
He added, “It will be a big challenge to defend all this and the counter-attacks. If we get a win out of this game, it’s huge for us. It would be huge for them to increase the difference between us. Let’s see, we’re very aware. Today was the day to bring the group together, from tomorrow on we’ll be totally focused.”
The gap between Chelsea and Manchester United currently stands at six points, with the visitors sitting pretty in second. Tuchel’s side could reinstate their place in the top four with a victory, but United will be desperate to keep up the pace on city rivals and runaway leaders Manchester City.
In terms of team news, the Blues face bad news over star centre-back Thiago Silva, who has been sidelined since the Tottenham win.
Tuchel said, “No more [new] injury concerns, and Thiago cannot play on Sunday. He did an individual session today [Friday] and a session on the pitch, which was big progress, a big step for him. I hope he will join the group next week.”
Silva has been one of Chelsea’s best players this season, since arriving from Paris Saint-Germain last summer. The Brazilian has made 21 appearances in blue but just three under his former PSG manager, before he picked up a thigh injury at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
The 36-year-old’s absence remains a costly blow for the west Londoners, but the aim now will be to have him ready for next Thursday’s battle with Liverpool.
After facing Ralph Hasenhüttl last week against Southampton, Tuchel meets familiar opposition once again in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This will be their third meeting this season, having been drawn together in the Champions League group stage. Sitting on one win apiece, both managers will be desperate to get one over their counterpart.
Speaking about facing Solskjaer and Manchester United again, Tuchel said, “For sure, we played them twice in the Champions League, we unfortunately lost both home matches and could win both away games [across the last two seasons], pretty strange results. It helps a lot, because we played two consecutive years against them.”
As PSG manager, Tuchel saw his side lose to a late Marcus Rashford winner in October, falling to a 2-1 defeat in their opening Champions League game. However, Les Parisiens got their revenge two months later at Old Trafford, securing an emphatic 3-1 win in Manchester – just three weeks before Tuchel was sacked.
Tuchel went on to say, “We hope that we can turn this around and win at home, but as you see, they’re still unbeaten in Premier League away games, the challenge is big because they like to have space, play counter attacks, use their speed and to absorb your speed in their own half.
“They were tough matches, and we will use that knowledge and prepare our team from tomorrow [Saturday].”
Chelsea have not won any of their last four home games with Manchester United, last beating the Red Devils at the Bridge in November 2017. The reverse fixture ended goalless at Old Trafford, but both sides will be vying for all three points when they meet again on Sunday.
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