Thomas Tuchel has praised Thiago Silva for his key role at the club, ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup tie on Sunday.
The Brazilian centre-back has been one of the Blues’ best players this season, arriving on a free from Paris Saint-Germain last summer. Although he is currently out with a thigh injury, the 36-year-old continues to have a positive influence, despite his absence from the heart of defence.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of Chelsea’s meeting with Sheffield United, Tuchel spoke about his vice-captain and his impact in west London.
Tuchel said, “I know Thiago for many years now, we had a fantastic relationship in Paris, he was absolutely a reliable partner as captain. Once he decides he is part of a team, he is 100% part of the team, he is very professional, a very emotional guy.
“Thiago see himself as a team player, he lives for the team he plays for, he suffers like he did. If we want to have special results and special moments, we need to play with a special atmosphere.”
Silva has almost single-handedly revolutionised Chelsea’s once uninspiring backline, conceding 14 fewer goals in the Premier League than at the same stage last season. Although he continues to recover well from injury, the FA Cup encounter comes too soon for the Brazilian veteran.
“Now is not the moment to take the risk for him in the last game before the international break,” Tuchel admitted. “It’s already too long, but I know how hard the medical team is working, I know how reliable everybody is. So we’re just waiting for him to feel 100% free, he’s in individual sessions and will hopefully join the group in the international break.”
Silva’s contract expires at the end of the season, though there is the option of a one-year extension. The player’s team have been in negotiations with the club, who are now awaiting the final decision on whether to extend his stay in the capital.
Speaking about Silva’s contract, Tuchel added, “About his contract, it’s too early, it’s not the surroundings to speak about right now, it’s between him and the club. The club and I will take the decision.”
Chelsea face Sheffield United in the FA Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge, looking to return to Wembley Stadium for the second successive season. The Blues will look to keep up their strong cup run, having already seen off lower league opposition in Morecambe, Luton Town and Barnsley.
This will be the third meeting between the Blues and the Blades this season, with the former having won on both occasions. Sheffield United come to Stamford Bridge with a new manager, as interim Paul Heckingbottom looks to provide the club with a bit of joy amid their dismal league form.
Tuchel is now 13 games unbeaten since arriving, looking to extend that into the final months of the season. Chelsea look like a revitalised team, as the German explained how he has helped to turn around the Blues’ fortunes.
He said, “The players perform as a team on a very high level. I know that the focus is now big on defending. We concede very few goals and keep clean sheets, which is very hard in modern football nowadays. Football stays a very complex game, and I’m very happy because we invest a lot, we play a high-intensity game.”
Tuchel went on to say, “We are happy to keep the momentum going. We’re very solid, we’re very brave. We try to be active throughout the match, we are confident in our physical performances in our physical input, and this makes us very self-confident and gives us a lot of strength.”
Earlier on Friday, the draw for the Champions League quarter-finals was made, which Chelsea found themselves in for the first time since 2014. Having seen off La Liga leaders Atlético Madrid on Wednesday, the Blues will face Portuguese champions Porto in the final eight, battling it out for a place in the semi-final.
Speaking about the quarter-final draw, Tuchel explained, “I’m happy that we play international games and not against an English team, because the Champions League is about that. Many people will make us the favourites against Porto; that will not help us, because it does not help you to be favourites.”
Chelsea and Porto will meet for the first time since 2015, when they were drawn together in the Champions League group stage. They were then left with a win apiece, but with a place in the final four at stake, both sides will be determined to prevail next month.
Tuchel concluded by saying, “We are self-confident, strongly connected with our performances. We are confident that we face a strong opponent, that we face with all the respect. Now we’re in the quarter-final, we are focused on is to reach the semi-final, and we fancy our chances.”
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