Chelsea might have responded to Thomas Tuchel’s tirade with a 6-0 demolition of Southampton, but the Blues boss knows it will be “very difficult” to stage an epic Champions League escape act against Real Madrid on Tuesday. Tuchel read the riot act to his players in a crisis meeting last Thursday as he tried to shake them out of an alarming slump that saw Real win 3-1 in the quarter-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.
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That damaging defeat, which came just days after Brentford thrashed Chelsea 4-1 in the Premier League, prompted Tuchel to question his players’ desire and focus.
Immediately after the Real loss, an unusually emotional Tuchel claimed Chelsea’s reign as Champions League holders was over.
The German got the response he wanted as Chelsea tore Southampton to pieces at St Mary’s, racing into a four-goal lead before half-time as they eased fears that they might slip out of the Premier League’s top four.
Asked if the Southampton rout could boost Chelsea’s chances in Madrid, Tuchel said: “It was necessary that we turned things around. We came from a long streak of games, then we had the international break and we had five days afterwards where we didn’t feel the same.
“So it was not a huge turnaround, it was not necessary to change everything, but it was the moment for us, I had the feeling, to tell the group the truth, my honest opinion, and tell them as a part of the group this is how I feel.
“And so the message was clear, and obviously everybody took it in the right way, I included myself in the message, and so it was necessary to step up.
“It is on the players to live up to what we play and they did it in an impressive manner.
“So it’s now a time to move on because we’ve found what makes us strong and it was another proof of that and we keep on going.”
Although Chelsea have restored their equilibrium, Tuchel knows overturning their first leg deficit against La Liga leaders Real at the Bernabeu will still be a huge task.
“It is a completely different game and opponent. The situation does not get easy,” he said.
“That will be a very difficult task and there is no change to it. We did what we wanted against Southampton and that is the good news.”
Timo Werner and Mason Mount both scored twice against Southampton, with Marcos Alonso and Kai Havertz also on target.
It was especially pleasing for Tuchel to see England forward Mount back among the goals after an inconsistent season.
Werner’s rare goals were also encouraging given Chelsea will need all the firepower they can muster to get past Real.
With away goals no longer counting double, Chelsea would at least force extra-time if they lead by two goals at the end of normal time.
Whether their defence can contain red-hot Real striker Karim Benzema, who scored a hat-trick in the first leg, is another matter entirely.
Tuchel believes the chastening first leg showed Chelsea cannot function against the best teams without every player operating at 100 percent.
“I think it tells us that we are not the team that can escape with results if our input is at 90 per cent or 80 per cent of our energy, commitment and investment,” he said.
“We are a special group when we have the priorities right. If we are committed, if we defend with courage, if we have the attitude right and the hunger right and win challenges.”
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