Thomas Tuchel rages at Chelsea players over 'alarming' slump since international break

Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid came days after the 4-1 humiliation against Brentford in the Premier League

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Thomas Tuchel has conceded that Chelsea face a near-impossible task to get back into their Uefa Champions League quarter-final tie with Real Madrid after suffering a dismal 3-1 defeat in the first leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick, comprising two masterful headers and a ruthless finish after Edouard Mendy's howler while Kai Havertz scored for the Blues, but Tuchel is not hopeful of turning around the contest and the German has been left baffled by his team's performances since the international break. Prior to the defeat to Real Madrid, Chelsea were thrashed 4-1 at home by Brentford in another uncharacteristically poor defensive display.

Asked if the tie was still winnable, Tuchel said: "No. Not at the moment, no. Because we have to find our level back, I don't know where it is since the international break.

"If things change, maybe, but how many clubs in worldwide football could do what we need, three goals difference? How often does this happen?"

Tuchel's blunt admission laid bare his anger at Chelsea's defensive miscues, wayward finishing and abject failure to match Real's energy.

The spluttering performance was completely unrecognisable from Chelsea's dynamic run to the Champions League title last season and, more recently, their six-game winning streak before the March international break.

Coming just five days after the humiliating defeat against Brentford in the Premier League – the first time they had lost to their west London neighbours since 1939 – the capitulation against Real was too much for Tuchel to take.

He barely had time to sit down for his post-match press conference before he let rip at his players.

"It was one of the worst first halves that I saw from us here at Stamford Bridge. It's very disappointing," he said. "We lost shape and sharpness. I don't really have an explanation. Before the international break we had a long winning streak and were very competitive.

"We can speak about the same defensive performance from five days ago. It is seven goals conceded. It's alarming. Nothing has changed in our approach."

Chelsea v Real Madrid player ratings

It was especially notable that Tuchel was willing to publicly lambast his players because he rarely shows displeasure with them in his media briefings.

Having led Chelsea to European and Fifa Club World Cup glory in his first year in charge, Tuchel is facing the first real on-pitch crisis of his reign.

He was adamant that the on-going sale of Chelsea, forced by the British government's sanctions of the club's Russian owner Roman Abramovich, was not a distraction, or at least not one that he was willing to accept as an excuse from his players.

"I don't think there's a deeper reason for it," he said. "We were so far off our level of everything the game demands, tactically, shape, stiffness, in challenges."

Tuchel took responsibility for the tactical set-up that allowed Benzema and Vinicius Junior to terrorise Andreas Christensen on the right side of Chelsea's defence.

Thomas Tuchel has been left baffled by Chelsea's slump in form since the international break. AFP

"It's on all of us, I'm included in this. For the situation on the flank with Christensen, it was my mistake," he said. "I don't have really explanation because we have fallen from being very competitive."

Nothing encapsulated Chelsea's night to forget better than the late chance missed by Romelu Lukaku, whose woeful header underlined why Tuchel had preferred to start with Kai Havertz.

Havertz had scored before half-time with a clinical header, giving them hope before Mendy and Antonio Rudiger combind to gift Benzema the third goal.

Worryingly for Tuchel, even Chelsea's place in the Premier League's top four is far from certain if they carry on in their current form.

"I worry more about Southampton on Saturday than Real Madrid on Tuesday," Tuchel said. "If we don't get our heads and legs straight and our mentality right we will not win. And then this tie is not alive."

Updated: April 07, 2022, 5:49 AM
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