Thomas Tuchel raised the stakes ahead of Chelsea’s crucial home game against Leicester, putting aside his disappointment at losing the FA Cup final to Brendan Rodgers and insisting that qualifying for the Champions League has always been its highest priority.
Chelsea are a point above Liverpool in fifth place with two games to go and another stumble could take them out of the top four. It would leave their hopes of making the Champions League dependent on winning the competition by beating Manchester City in the final on May 29 and Tuchel is desperate to avoid this scenario, although he was hesitant to agree that the financial importance to finish fourth made Tuesday’s league game of the night against Leicester, third, bigger than their showdown at Wembley.
“It looks like I’m a sore loser if I say yes,” Tuchel said. “I’m not a good loser but I want to be a respectful loser and I’m not here to play down the game for financial reasons. We lost a big game, it was a huge game for us, we brought out the best team we could. We didn’t rest anyone because we felt that tomorrow’s game is more important.
“But, there is a but. Do we want to play the Champions League next season? Yes, that’s the target when I entered this club. I want to be very clear – the task was: “Let’s try everything to be in the top four”. The task was not: ‘Let’s try everything to win the FA Cup’ because the FA Cup, no matter how big, doesn’t get you into Champions League football next season. It’s the top four that brings us that.
“Tomorrow is another huge game but, like I said, this game was important for us. It was a final. Once you can collect silverware, you just try out of respect. And I and the players – be very sure of this – don’t think about how much money we make. It’s not in our heads. “
Tuchel asked why Chelsea and Leicester had little time to recover from the final, pointing out that both sides would have benefited from another day off. Chelsea’s final league game of the season sees them visit Aston Villa on Sunday.
“We never understood that and we said before that we couldn’t understand because both teams are involved and it would have been easier for both teams to have a Wednesday game because the next game is Sunday, ”he said. “There is absolutely no reason to play Saturday, Tuesday, Sunday. It absolutely makes sense to play the game on Wednesday. From a sporting point of view, no one can disagree. But, OK, we can’t wish for another date to play so we’ll be ready tomorrow. ”
Tuchel added that he would like Chelsea to recognize Antonio Rüdiger’s fine form by extending the defender’s contract before it expires next year. “Nothing better than what he’s doing for a new contract,” he said. “If he wants to have a new contract, he has all our support to stay at the club. He talks about his performance; he’s been amazing from day one. We chose him in the first game after just one day of training.
“He’s an aggressive leader, he has that natural aggressiveness in him. He hates losing, is difficult to beat in duels, is very courageous and full of energy in his defense. He leads by example. This is what we love. When he can channel all of that into top performance, like he does now, we’re very happy to have him.