Chelsea attack key as Thomas Tuchel aims to go one better in the Champions League

James Robson
·4-min read
 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Thomas Tuchel began the season wondering how to go one better with Paris Saint-Germain. After a mid-season break, he is now in charge of Chelsea with precisely the same aim: to conquer Europe.

And the German believes he is just as well placed to triumph in the Champions League, even after leaving Neymar and Kylian Mbappe behind. But how he must crave such lethal forwards at Stamford Bridge after struggling to find the right balance in attack in his first few weeks in the job.

It is a measure of his pursuit for perfection in that department that he sought to add Luis Suarez to his PSG forward line after losing the Champions League Final to Bayern Munich in August.

"It was a possibility," he said ahead of Chelsea's round of 16 first leg against Atletico. "We heard the rumours he was about to leave Barcelona, and who cannot be interested in signing one of the best strikers in world football history and present? We tried our luck — we did not make it. He decided to stay in Spain, moved to Atletico and has proven his quality."

Keeping Suarez quiet will be key to Chelsea overcoming Diego Simeone's La Liga leaders and Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta said: "The best way to defend him is to keep him as far as possible from the goal —and that is a collective job."

Tuchel added: "He is a natural striker, a born striker, and has the certain mentality that only strikers have. This mentality is to show his will, intensity and hunger to score, score and score. He is never satisfied. So, what a mentality, what a player."

Tuchel played down any suggestion he might reignite his interest in Suarez now he is at Chelsea, but his attack remains his biggest issue.

Erling Braut Haaland is a target for the summer, but if Tuchel is to achieve his immediate target of winning silverware this season, he must unlock his side's attacking potential after failing to convert possession into goals.

Azpilicueta admits it is the area where Chelsea are lacking, despite their dramatic turnaround in form since the new manager came in.

"When we play possession, it is not just to have it for the sake of it," he said. "We want to have it to create chances and spaces.

"Yes, we are missing that final thing to have possession and create more chances, but we are working on that. We will try to improve on that.

"That's the next step because we are solid defensively and we want to get more opportunities to get better results."

Tuchel is still undefeated since succeeding Frank Lampard last month, with five wins from seven games in charge. It is a run that has given him confidence he could yet go one better than he managed at PSG in Europe.

Ahead of tonight's game in Bucharest, he said: "Are we well equipped? Yes, I feel clearly, yes. Very easy to answer.

"I love what I see on a daily basis here in Cobham, I love what I feel, what I feel the quality and intensity and enthusiasm of training. The eagerness 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 the quality in the individuals and trust in us as a group. Once you arrive in this stage there is no other approach than to overperform as a group and this is only possible if you feel the bond between the players if you are involved as a coach and I feel all of these things.

"It is a bit strange to play a group stage with one team in a different country and arrive in the knock-out with another team. But, honestly, I am here three and a half weeks and I jump into this opportunity and I did not regret one single minute.

"I am totally into Chelsea and totally into this club and 100 per cent into this team. That is why it does not feel so strange any more, it feels natural to arrive now with my team in Bucharest and I am very happy to arrive with this group. We feel strong. We know we have to be strong and brave and have courage to play against a strong Atletico but this is the challenge we are looking forward to.

"It is very nice and amazing and exciting to play Champions League games. The knock-out stage you know that you arrive at the highest level. When you play Atletico in the first round of the knock-out, then you know you must be at your highest level and this is what we want to have.

"We feel confident and excited and at the same time focused.”

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