‘The stress test is on at Anfield’: Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea’s record signing Romelu Lukaku is relishing the prospect of going up against Virgil van Dijk… as the Blues look to stay consistent to challenge for the title
- Jurgen Klopp once described the style of football his sides play as heavy metal
- Thomas Tuchel was reluctant to do the same – but his approach has worked
- The German admits that going to a packed Anfield makes his side’s task tougher
- Chelsea improved last term under Tuchel – but still finished way off top spot
Thomas Tuchel likes to tackle things head on. Take a question posed on the eve of Chelsea’s trip to Liverpool, inviting him to liken his team to a genre of music in the way Jurgen Klopp once described his style as heavy metal football.
Something from his own record collection, perhaps? Something like Simply Red? Or Abba? Tuchel exploded into a fit of laughter.
‘Imagine if we played like Abba,’ he guffawed. ‘How will we win any games?’ Poor old Abba.
Thomas Tuchel did not attach a label to Chelsea’s style of football – but it is a winning one
The Blues boss says record signing Romelu Lukaku is relishing going up against Virgil van Dijk
Or take his reaction to the idea that Saturday’s clash at Liverpool, up against Virgil van Dijk, will represent a truer test of his £97.5million record signing Romelu Lukaku than last weekend against Arsenal.
Plenty of managers would fudge such an issue but Tuchel is not for fudging.
‘The stress test is on at Anfield,’ he declared. ‘I’m looking forward to it. Many spectators and fans of football are looking to that battle.
‘It’s not only Van Dijk against Lukaku, it’s Liverpool against Chelsea, but of course for Romelu it’s a big challenge.
‘He loves this kind of stage. That’s why I expect the best we can see from him right now. He’s a tough competitor against a strong opponent.’
Chelsea’s strong finish to last season under Tuchel, the Champions League triumph, the addition of Lukaku and their stylish start to the new campaign have seen many pundits tipping them to win the Premier League.
‘We go one step closer now we’ve signed him,’ said Tuchel. ‘Now it is about living up to it.
‘We have to prove it. And it is not proven if you win two games; it is just the start. We have to prove throughout a whole season that we are closing the gap.’
Chelsea finished fourth last season — two points behind Liverpool in third and 19 adrift of champions Manchester City.
Chelsea rallied under Tuchel last term – but they still finished 19 points behind Manchester City
‘There are teams who proved in the last two or three seasons they are on a more consistent level,’ said Tuchel. ‘That’s why I still see us as the guys who hunt Liverpool and both Manchester teams.
‘We know very well what can happen if you catch the momentum, if you catch a streak, having good results in a row.
‘It takes hard work, feet on the ground and if in doubt we shut our mouth and keep working and not talking.’
But make no mistake, Chelsea are growing in confidence, sure once again of their identity and direction under the German who took charge in January.
Lukaku’s presence reinforces this — they are happier with a striker of his ilk after success under Didier Drogba and Diego Costa — and they remain active in the transfer market, chasing Sevilla’s France defender Jules Kounde and Atletico Madrid’s Spain midfielder Saul Niguez.
Like their visitors, Liverpool have won their opening two games without conceding a goal. Van Dijk and Joel Matip are reunited in central defence and the fans are back, sure to give their title rivals a hostile reception.
Chelsea are looking to sign Jules Kounde (pictured) and Saul Niguez before the window closes
Tuchel acknowledges that the prospect of going to Anfield with fans is a tougher proposition
‘A different proposition for sure,’ added Tuchel. ‘That’s not excuses, it’s the reality and we should not hide from it. Liverpool with Van Dijk is a different Liverpool than without him.
‘Him together with Matip is a huge upgrade to March and spectators can be a big factor at Anfield. It’s one of the toughest challenges you can face in European football.
‘I have the feeling that we’re ready for the fight on that level.’
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