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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 28 February 2021

Thomas Tuchel urges Chelsea to 'feel the joy more than pressure' of Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid

London club take on La Liga leaders in last-16 tie that has been moved to Romania due to Spanish coronavirus restrictions

Thomas Tuchel has urged Chelsea to savour the joy of the Champions League rather than feeling the pressure of facing the Spanish league leaders Atletico Madrid.

Tuchel took Paris Saint-Germain to the final for the first time in their history last season but Chelsea have not reached the last eight since 2014, when Diego Simeone’s Atletico knocked them out in the semi-finals.

Chelsea are underdogs but unbeaten under Tuchel and he exuded confidence as he savoured a tough test.

“In sport, we should look to the chances and the joy and hopefully we feel the joy more than the pressure,” he said.

“Are we well equipped? Yes, that is very easy to answer. I love what I see on a daily basis here, I love what I feel, what I feel the quality and intensity and enthusiasm of training, the eager and hunger to compete.

"And I like what I feel – a strong bond between the players and I feel a strong club. I like the games, there are a lot of good behaviours and I trust in us as a group.

“This is a big test and it is what we want. Hopefully, it will bring out the best in us. We will do it our way. It's clear what you get when you play Atletico: fighting, experience, and a team with a strong mentality. They are leaders in Spain but we have our qualities.”

Chelsea face Atletico in Bucharest, as a result of Spanish government regulations, and Tuchel admitted: “Clearly it is a disadvantage for Atletico to lose their home ground.”

Chelsea will be without Thiago Silva, who captained Tuchel’s PSG in last season’s final and who has returned to training but who is not yet ready to play, but Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic are back in the squad after missing five and two games respectively.

And Tuchel was adamant it is “business as usual” between him and Callum Hudson-Odoi, the substitute he substituted in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Southampton.

“We decided to speak to him in front of the whole group,” he explained. “Was it the right decision? I don’t know. We spoke as a whole group to not make it bigger than it is because for us it was not a big thing. We had the reaction we wanted. He went back to normal mood, to a good mood.”

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The captain Cesar Azpilicueta added: “Obviously, it is not nice to come on and be subbed after 30 minutes. That is very obvious and the manager made it clear.

"What was important was to see his reaction afterwards. It was a positive reaction. I am sure he will get better and he will get stronger.”

Chelsea will face Luis Suarez, who has a controversial past with them after biting Branislav Ivanovic during his Liverpool days.

Tuchel tried to sign for PSG last year and the German said: “We heard there was the possibility that he is about to leave Barcelona. Who cannot be interested to sign one of the best strikers in world football, in history and present?

"We tried our luck but we did not make it, He chose to stay in Spain. He is a born striker and has a certain mentality that only strikers have to show his will, his intensity and his anger to score, score, score.”

Tuchel insisted he is unlikely to renew his interest in Suarez with Chelsea, adding: “I think he is under contract and it is not worth thinking about.”

Azpilicueta outlined the plan to stop Suarez: “The best way to defend him is to keep him as far as possible from the goal and that is a collective job.”

Updated: February 22, 2021 07:27 PM

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