‘I never felt that the Champions League is our holy grail since I arrived,’ explained the German. ‘I never felt here that we have a holy grail to reach, or that winning the Champions League is the only target that really counts.
‘It’s the opposite. I have a strong feeling that any win counts and that we demand, and the club demands, of this team that we win any game, no matter who’s on the other side of the pitch.’
Thomas Tuchel tried to play down the pressure of Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final
Tuchel was clearly trying to alleviate at least some of the pressure on his players ahead of a night that will be shot through with anxiety. Suffice to say, however, his attempts at reverse psychology are unlikely to work.
He knows what’s at stake against Real Madrid. The supporters know. The board knows. Most importantly of all, the players know.
Asked if Wednesday’s semi-final second leg, with the tie locked at 1-1, is the biggest game of his career, Andreas Christensen replied: ‘It could well be. It has a massive importance for not just me, but the whole club. It is hard to go away and play it like a normal game because we know how much it means to the club and that we haven’t been in this situation since 2012.’
In another ploy to ease tension, Tuchel gave his players permission to stay with their families on Tuesday night rather than have them stay overnight at the team hotel. The squad will reconvene this morning to prepare for a clash that is too close to call following the draw in Madrid.
Chelsea claimed an away goal at Real Madrid, drawing the first leg 1-1 with the LaLiga giants
Andreas Christensen believes the second leg could be the most important game of his career
The coach hopes that spending the night at home will help his players relax ahead of their date with destiny, though relaxing will be easier said than done.
‘We thought that, because it is a late game on Wednesday, to let the players sleep at home,’ said Tuchel. ‘When we have evening games I sometimes feel it will increase the tension if you go to a hotel the night before.
‘So let them go home, let them be a bit distracted and we will have a meeting, go for a walk at lunch and we will still have seven hours together. I feel our big strength is that we arrive as a team that is used to this pressure and to this amount of belief and determination to win games.
‘This is a good pressure because if you make things too big then it helps nobody and it devalues your performance in any other game. We know it’s a huge opportunity on Wednesday and you can be sure we will give everything to make it to the final.’
Indeed, what awaits Chelsea’s players after a spot of lunch and an afternoon stroll is their own crack at history — an opportunity to create their own legacy.
Frank Lampard (left) and Didier Drogba (right) won the Champions League back in 2012
Munich in 2012 was the most momentous night in the club’s history, their one and only Champions League triumph. Didier Drogba. Frank Lampard. Petr Cech. Ashley Cole. Legends.
Christensen joined Chelsea, from Brondby, during that euphoric summer. Nine years later and here he is, on the cusp of playing in the final in Istanbul later this month.
‘The quality of the club is what brought me here in the first place,’ explained the Denmark defender. ‘We’ve been fighting for it for a long time and it hasn’t quite happened. We are in a good position and have a good balance between younger and experienced players. I’m looking forward to it.
‘It means a lot to us, the game means a lot to us and the club. It is just something we really want to try to win and that’s why we all play football for these big trophies. I knew already that I was going to go to Chelsea when we won it and I followed it very, very closely.
‘At that time, you hoped to do it. That hope is still there. Everyone at the club wants to be part of its history.’