Thomas Tuchel's key-quotes ahead of FA Cup quarter-final contest vs Middlesbrough
Tuchel has led Chelsea to the final in every single competition since taking over in January 2021 (Paul Marriott/Rex/Shutterstock)

Ahead of Chelsea’s trip up to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup quarter-final on Saturday evening, head coach Thomas Tuchel spoke to the media on Friday afternoon.

The west London club initially put out quite an embarrassing statement where they had asked for the fixture to be played behind closed doors ‘for matters of sporting integrity’, with Chelsea currently unable to sell tickets for any game due to the recent sanction put on the club by the UK government. 

After heavy scrutiny from the footballing world and a firm statement from Boro, the plea was quickly withdrawn, with the game set to go ahead with just under 35,000 expected at the Riverside Stadium.

Here’s what Tuchel had to say on the opponents, and other matters...

Team news

In terms of absentees, the 48-year-old confirmed three key players will miss out on the trip to North Yorkshire.

“We have Reece [James], Callum [Hudson-Odoi] and Andreas Christensen uncertain.” Tuchel continued: “They are in training, but not yet in full [team] training. There are still some checks to do. It can be a very tight race and maybe it is a bit too close.”

The Riverside atmosphere

With Chris Wilder’s men having beaten Premier League giants in the previous two rounds, the tie will definitely not be an easy one for the European champions, with Saturday’s opponents knocking out Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

Tuchel said: “I expect an FA Cup atmosphere. I don’t think there is any need for more hostility. Football is about the love of the game, respecting the opponent and the passion and supporting your own team. We expect an emotional stadium. I love the FA Cup. We expect a tough away match against a strong team.”

Last season, the Stamford Bridge side fell short to Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City, and will be hoping to go one better this time round.

Champions League quarter-final draw vs Real Madrid

After the Blues’ were drawn to play 13-time Champions League winners and former boss Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, regarding the tie, Tuchel said: “The challenge cannot be tougher than playing a second leg at the Bernabeu with spectators. There is also big excitement around this match. We know what is coming.”

On last season’s route to winning the Champions League, Chelsea faced then-Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid side however, in very contrasting circumstances with the game played behind closed doors at the club’s academy stadium, Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

Tuchel is fully aware of the upcoming tie and the impact of the fans, having previously faced Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu with PSG.

“It would be a disadvantage [not having any Chelsea fans at the Bernabeu], but I hope we find a solution. I am pretty sure everyone at the club and in the board will fight for the chance. I don’t know how big the possibility is, but these games are for spectators. It is a different game when the crowd is in the stadium. Hopefully we make it happen somehow,” he said. 

Travelling to the game

With the current sanction meaning the club are unable to spend any money, Tuchel did confirm that the side will fly to the match, instead of a dreaded near-five-hour coach journey.

“Yes [we will be flying up there]. Everybody worked hard to make it happen. It has gone through and has been organised which is very good. As you know we had the last matches with only two days in-between to rest. It is very important to minimise the time of travel and maximise the time of recovery to reduce the risk of injuries. We are very happy as everything is organised as usual.”

The news comes after Kai Havertz confirmed earlier in the week he would have ‘no problem’ paying for travel. 

Havertz added: “That is not a big deal for us. To come to the games is more important. There are harder moments in the world, than [worry about] taking the plane or bus to away games.” 

Links to Manchester United managerial job

As Manchester United are currently without a permanent manager, Tuchel has been linked with the vacancy, more so with interim boss and German philosopher Ralf Rangnick set to take a backwards step after this season, moving into an advisory role.

Rangnick is one who is said to have influenced a whole host of German coaches, with Tuchel included in the group exclusive names.

On the links, the former PSG, Borussia Dortmund and Mainz manager said: “[I have] no reaction at all. Do you feel me less committed to the club, or less involved? I think absolutely not. I love to work for Chelsea and this club has everything that it needs to make me happy. I have plenty of reason to stay here.”

With all club employees’ futures currently up in the air, Tuchel does seem fairly committed to the cause.

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