Thomas Tuchel has warned that Chelsea have to be wary of Real Madrid’s ability to rouse themselves and produce special performances when it matters most.
Chelsea are the reigning Champions League winners after eliminating Real in the semi-finals last year but while the Spanish league leaders are the competition’s most successful club, lifting the European Cup a record 13 times, the German has paid most attention to their recent record.
Tuchel’s team are bidding to become just the second team to retain the Champions League in the last three decades after Real, who won it in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
While some pillars of that team, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, are long gone, others remain, such as Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro. Tuchel believes that big-game experience matters more than their defeat to Chelsea in 2021.
“I think this has nothing to do with last season's game,” he said. “They won it three times [in a row] and this competition is unbelievably hard to win. They trusted a similar squad in a long period of time which is impressive.
“It is normal that cycles like this change at times in terms of a winning streak but we should be very aware that teams with this kind of experience, flair and quality can produce special performances and special occasions.”
Real Madrid’s former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti may miss the game after testing positive for coronavirus and Tuchel said: “I'm pretty sure he can do the team talk and be in charge of players. But it's always nicer to be there and have direct influence. I personally hope he makes it.”
Chelsea had been in fine form until suffering a shock 4-1 defeat to their neighbours Brentford on Saturday but winger Christian Pulisic, who scored against Real in the semi-final last year, thinks that could galvanise them.
“The game at the weekend was a tough one but maybe it was the kick we needed,” he said. “I think the guys are going to turn it around. It was a crazy result and it is not the time to panic.
Chelsea 1 Brentford 4: player ratings
“We got good results against them [Real] last year and hope to do so this year. Knowing we have done it last year, we should feel confident and that is our mindset.”
Pulisic praised his teammates for the way they have coped with the uncertainty surrounding Chelsea’s future, with the club up for sale after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government for his links to Vladimir Putin.
“I think the guys have done really well to deal with it,” he said. “You can see when everything was going on, the way the guys reacted and continued to get result after result.”
While Pulisic stressed he is happy at Stamford Bridge, defender Andreas Christensen, who is out of contract in the summer, has reportedly agreed to join Barcelona.
Tuchel, who said the Dane was omitted against Brentford because of a tactical decision to play with a back four, told him he should stay and ought to be grateful to Chelsea for their role in his development.
“He is in exactly the right place and he should continue his journey at this club to become the defender he can be and the personality and figure he wants to be,” he added. “In my opinion he should not forget where he gave from and he who gave him his education.
Tuchel could recall Christensen, explaining: “It is very clear when I had conversations with him, the bottom line is as long as you are my player I expect him to be 100 per cent committed and nothing less. It is what we expect and what we have experienced.”