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Thomas Tuchel warns rivals that Chelsea are only going to get better

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Thomas Tuchel has sounded a warning to Chelsea’s rivals, insisting the European champions are yet to hit their peak.

Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Tottenham, the German claimed his team were still finding their way, despite an unbeaten start to the season and Romelu Lukaku’s deadly form.

A 1-0 win against Zenit St Petersburg last night kicked off the defence of their Champions League crown, and in the Premier League they sit level on points with Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton at the top of the table.

Lukaku, who scored a 69th-minute winner against the Russians, has four goals in as many games and no team in Europe’s top five leagues has kept more clean sheets than Chelsea’s 23 since Tuchel took charge in January.

Those daunting statistics back up a growing belief that they will challenge on all fronts this season.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

More worrying for their rivals — home and abroad — is Tuchel’s claim that they are still far from their best.

After the narrow win in their opening game in Group H, he said: “Winning is good for our belief. We are not finished, but we are in a good place to improve.

“There are a lot of reasons why we are maybe not on the absolute highest level at the moment or not on our top limit, but right now, with the pre-season, with new guys coming in, with international breaks, I am happy with how we play and I find us very competitive.

“We know how to handle difficulties during matches and I liked what I saw at the sideline because I felt the energy, I felt the effort and it was a strong opponent.”

Tuchel believes Chelsea are having to cope with the pressure of now being considered one of the prize scalps in Europe after surviving a scare against Aston Villa on Saturday and overcoming a Zenit side that defended deep and looked to hit them on the break.

“We have to accept and also respect it,” he said. “It was a tough Villa team at the weekend and it was a tough team today. They change their mentality when they arrive and they play us and we need to adapt and find solutions, which is what we do in the moment.”

Key to Chelsea’s flying start, which has also seen them win the European Super Cup, has been Lukaku’s outstanding form since his £97.5million move from Inter Milan.

The Belgium striker has hit the ground running in his second spell at the club and came up with the decisive moment against Zenit when heading in Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.

 (AP)
(AP)

Tuchel believes Lukaku is doing his job for him. “It gives us belief and gives everybody around him a lot of confidence when strikers score and are decisive,” he said. “There is no talk and no video of any coach in the world that can have the same impact.

“The performance for Romelu was not easy, we did not create many chances for him, but he is the type of guy who does not lose confidence and belief, and that’s why he’s here and that’s what makes him a world-class striker.

“You don’t find many strikers of that quality and the guys who really score regularly for their teams are so important because the goal changes the whole momentum of the match. It gives the whole team a lot of belief to know that maybe one half-chance or one chance is enough.

“He was the type of guy that we were missing in our team, the profile, but not only for the talent, but also for his personality. The atmosphere and the spirit last year took us very, very far and it is very important that we have it again — and we have it with Romelu because he loves Chelsea and knows what this club is all about.”

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