Thomas Tuchel makes Champions League history
Chelsea wouldn’t be in the Champions League final without Thomas Tuchel. Even the most ardent of Frank Lampard supporter, of which there are understandably many, would accept that.
The German coach has transformed the Blues since being appointed at the end of January. The defensive fragility that consistently undermind Lampard’s reign has been replaced by a stoic, hard-nosed and relentless desire to keep clean sheets.
That has been the foundation of everything Chelsea have achieved under Tuchel. His side is irritatingly difficult to break down and overcome. Atletico Madrid discovered that earlier in this season’s Champions League. Now so have their more illustrious and grandiose neighbours Real.
Chelsea did need Edouard Mendy to produce two match-altering stops last night, but there is no doubt the blues were by far the better team across 180 minutes of tense Champions League semi-final football.
Next comes Istanbul and for Tuchel a little piece of European Cup history: no manager has ever reached back-to-back finals in the competition with two different clubs.
Eden Hazard shows why he wasn’t right for Reall
Sorry, Eden, but white doesn’t quite suit you. Not in the same way blue did. And especially when you’re playing at Stamford Bridge.
Hazard has been beset with injury issues for the best part of two seasons; he has only just cracked the 40-appearance mark for the La Liga giants and has scored only four goals.
Real expected more, that’s why they paid Chelsea £130million for the 30-year-old. Yet there is a nagging feeling the Madrid-based club never truly understood what they were buying.
Hazard is a wonderfully gifted footballer, perhaps only matched by Lionel Messi in the European game for pure natural ability. But he has never possessed the same ruthless mindset as the Argentine star or Cristiano Ronaldo.
From the outside, it’s clear Hazard loves his football. He enjoys the thrill of beating opponents, of squeezing the ball out of the tightest spaces. It’s not his everything, though. He is a family man first and foremost, someone who enjoys the quiet life away from the pitch.
He is not all-consumed by the game which is why, just moments after Real had been eliminated from the Champions League by his former club, Hazard had no issue having a laugh and a joke with several of his jubilant former Chelsea teammates.
Naturally, that has gone down awfully in Spain with El Chiringuito even going as far as to say Hazard should never play for Los Blancos again. At least he’ll always be welcomed back to Stamford Bridge.
Jorginho’s true colours shine through
The Italian midfielder has not had it easy at Chelsea. He was signed to be the fulcrum of Maurizio Sarri’s side but became a rather obvious scapegoat when things didn’t quite work out under the Italian coach.
His position in the team under Lampard, meanwhile, was never secure. There would be spells during which Jorginho appeared important and others in which he was on the fringes of the first-team squad.
It’s been different with Tuchel. The German coach tried to take Jorginho to Paris Saint-Germain last summer so there was already a clear appreciation for the 29-year-old’s talents. It’s now clear why.
As part of the double six alongside N’Golo Kante, Jorginho has been excellent in recent weeks. He was once again against Real – there was one perfectly-timed challenge on Karim Benzema that halted a promising Real Madrid counter-attack.
And when the final whistle was blown, Jorginho, who was given the captain’s armband after Cesar Azpilicueta was brought off, sank to his knees on the Stamford Bridge pitch, hunched over and appeared to shed a few tears.
Relief, joy, and more all wrapped into one emotional moment.
Thiago Silva and Thomas Tuchel go again
Last August, both Silva and Tuchel endured the crushing disappointment of losing a Champions League final. Both were then at PSG and ended up beaten by Bayern Munich when it mattered most.
That game proved to be Silva’s last for the Ligue 1 giants and he signed for Chelsea a week later. The 36-year-old has since become an integral part of the Blues defence, his experience and leadership qualities invaluable in a young squad.
Tuchel’s arrival at Stamford Bridge came much later, and only after he was sacked by PSG at Christmas. But as highlighted earlier, his impact has been huge.
There appears to be huge and genuine respect between the 47-year-old coach and the Brazil international and more than a little bit of affection, which was evident after Mason Mount struck Chelsea’s second goal last night against Real Madrid.
The academy graduate’s close-range finish effectively confirmed it would be the Blues that take on Premier League rivals Manchester City in Istanbul at the end of this month. And while the majority of the Chelsea players headed to the corner to celebrate, Silva went to the touchline.
There he received a quick peck on the cheek from Tuchel and the two then shared a warm embrace. Both are back in the Champions League final, they will hope for a very different experience this time around.