Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea’s game against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday could have “huge” implications on the race for the top four.
Chelsea are currently fifth in the Premier League, two points behind fourth-placed West Ham – who visit leaders Manchester City on Saturday – and six behind United, who are second.
While Tuchel is fully aware of the threat posed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side – who have not lost away from home in the league since January 2020 and are the division’s top scorers – he knows how much of a boost a win would provide to Chelsea’s bid to play Champions League football next season.
“Hopefully we can win – this is what we go for,” Tuchel said. “We know it’s a big challenge because of their unbeaten away record.
“We know what we’re up against; a team that can hurt you any second with individual quality, with speed. They are strong away, they can defend very compact, they are very, very good in transition. It will be a big challenge to defend all this.
“The implication is huge, of course. If we get a win out of this game it’s huge for us. If they get a win it will be huge for them, to put a difference between us.”
While Sunday’s meeting – live on Sky Sports – will be the first time Tuchel has faced United as Chelsea boss, he does have recent experience against Solskjaer’s United side.
Tuchel was in charge of Paris Saint-Germain for their infamous 3-1 defeat at home to United in the Champions League last-16 during the 2018/19 season, a result which saw the French side throw away a 2-0 lead from the first leg and helped to earn Solskjaer the permanent manager’s job at Old Trafford.
Tuchel also oversaw PSG’s 2-1 home defeat to United in the group stages of this year’s competition, as well as their 3-1 win at Old Trafford, and says those encounters will help to inform his approach on Sunday.
“We played against them in the Champions League – we unfortunately lost both home matches and could win both away games. Pretty strange results,” said Tuchel.
“We hope that we can turn this around and win at home, but they are still unbeaten away from home in the Premier League. The challenge is big because they like to have space, play on counter attacks, to use their speed and absorb your speed.
“But it helps a lot because we played two consecutive years against them and they were tough matches. We will use that knowledge and prepare our team.”
Tuchel revealed Chelsea will again be without Thiago Silva for the visit of United as he continues his recovery from the injury he suffered earlier this month.
However, two other veterans will be on display at Stamford Bridge; former PSG striker Edinson Cavani is set to be part of the United side, while Olivier Giroud is in contention for a starting spot after his match-winning display for Chelsea against Atletico Madrid in midweek.
Tuchel would not confirm whether Giroud would start, but likened him to Cavani and praised the way both 34-year-old strikers have maintained their fitness to continue performing at a high level so late in their careers.
“All the time he deserves to start,” Tuchel said of Giroud. “He trains very well, he’s a leader in the group, he’s a big personality. So even when he did not start, he deserved to start.
“Their fitness is key and Oli is 100-per-cent fit, zero body fat. The same with Edi – he is a player like Oli who is ready to suffer for the team. This is the characteristic of them both and then in the box they are both excellent finishers.
“They have the experience, they don’t get nervous, they have the composure. Both top-quality strikers and their fitness and self-discipline is key to their success.”