"In football, you can close gaps in 90 minutes," says Chelsea's manager as he faces the daunting task of denying Josep Guardiola.
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A runner-up last season with Paris, Thomas Tuchel has made it to the UEFA Champions League final for the second season in a row, Chelsea thriving since he took command in January.
The 47-year-old has already come up against Josep Guardiola’s Manchester City side twice since he moved to London, winning both games, but as he told UEFA.com, he is not taking any comfort as his side bid to become champions of Europe for a second time.
"As a child, you dream of these matches and it’s like watching the moon - it’s so, so far away. Once you’re in it, you’re just in it, and it’s your work, and you cannot go back to the [way you felt] as a little boy, even if you try, [which is maybe] a good thing, as you don’t get over-excited. So it’s a bit sad, but [there’s] no room for complaints.
"This competition is the competition I watched as a little boy on TV, and I have so many memories of all the German teams who were involved. When you walk out [for] the first time and you hear the Champions League song playing, it’s huge. There are no words [that can] describe [it]. I feel very, very thankful to have this life, and to constantly [be able to experience] this feeling.
"It’s pretty unbelievable [to be in the final for a second successive season with a different club]. If anybody would have told me at Christmas, I’m not sure if I would have believed or laughed about it. When you finish a season and you know you have one more week that’s only you and another team [preparing] for a big final in the Champions League, it’s a big gift, honestly: I know.
"It was hard to leave my family, because of Brexit and [COVID-19], in Paris, and to come here alone but it was also a very simple approach to my life and to my professional life as a coach. So, it was all about coaching, being in a hotel room, having my two suitcases and diving into this club and pushing this team. [I didn’t have any other target] in my life, because I was alone here.
"I was very impressed, from the first moment, with the intensity, the attitude, and how we defended together. [This] is an [important] point. The group plays like a group that has something to prove and they really want to prove how strong they are. In the end, you can [break] any question in high-level sport down to the question: 'How bad do you want it?' And this group wants it really badly.
"[We may not have faced the exact same City team we will face in the final] but still, we beat them [twice since I took charge]. Will it be like we have a big advantage? No, absolutely not, and we are very well aware that this game in the final starts from scratch. [Guardiola] can’t be sure that he’s played our team yet, the team which will play the final. So, it’s the same for us, but we know very well that it will start from scratch and we need another top performance.
"It’s always so, so tough to play against [Guardiola’s] teams. I played against his [Bayern] team, and now against his Man City team. I watched his Barcelona team to learn from him and his team about football: how you can defend [and] how you can attack, [for] years and years. He built winning machines, and this is what he [has done] now, here in England.
"I don’t hesitate to say that Man City and Bayern [have been] the benchmark in Europe this season and last season. We are trying to close the gap and the good thing is, in football, you can close gaps in 90 minutes. That is absolutely possible, and that’s what we are [aiming to do] in the final."