Completely without provocation, the conversation got an expected distraction in Porto on Tuesday. “Chelsea is worth about £ 700 million, but money isn’t playing,” Pepe shouted out of the blue.
As we know, Pepe – a three-time Champions League winner at Real Madrid – is a master of the dark arts, but even for him, this was a bit out of the ordinary.
Then his manager Sergio Conceicao, again unsolicited, was on the forefront about cash – or rather Porto’s lack of it.
Porto’s Pepe brought to the fore Chelsea’s superior spending habits ahead of the Champions League draw
‘When we go to the field, we don’t think we’ve spent £ 25m and Chelsea £ 250m on the market,’ he said.
Moments later, Conceicao was at it again: ‘We won’t think our most expensive player is £ 8 million and Chelsea’s is anything else. When we enter the field it is 11 against 11, ‘said the Porto boss.
No prizes for guessing how Porto motivates itself for the Champions League quarter finals on Wednesday night.
The opportunity and prospect of a semifinal spot in the elite club competition of European football should, of course, be inspiration enough. But whatever works for you.
Not that Chelsea remotely basked in the rather contrived story that came from Portugal on Tuesday.
“No, money certainly doesn’t give you an advantage,” said Blues midfielder Mateo Kovacic, a former teammate of Pepe before leaving Madrid for London in a £ 40 million deal. ‘The advantage we need is on the field, because Porto is a tough opponent. It has nothing to do with budget. ‘
Porto manager Sergio Conceicao was also quick to bring up Chelsea’s finances in the build-up
It may be understandable that Porto has tried to spark a fake war to stoke the fire ahead of Wednesday night’s meeting. They are big underdogs.
At one point, Pepe was even asked by a local journalist how he felt about Chelsea players celebrating Porto in last month’s draw.
Did they? The accusation certainly came as a surprise to Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. ‘We wouldn’t be celebrating a draw in the Champions League. We respect every team, ”said the German.
‘We come from a league where we can lose to the team 19th in the table 5-2 (West Bromwich). So we know how humbly to approach each game.
“In the quarter finals of the Champions League, if you want an opponent, you lose yourself in crazy brain games.”
Kovacic agreed, saying, “It’s strange to hear that from Pepe because I played with him for three years. I don’t know what he means or if he actually said it. But of course not, we didn’t celebrate.
Chelsea decided not to bite, despite their summer spending on players like Kai Havertz
‘Me? I didn’t celebrate because when I played at Real Madrid before, I know there are no happy or bad opponents in these stages. ‘
There appears to be little danger of Chelsea becoming complacent in the run-up to Wednesday night’s first leg in Seville.
And if there was a lasting sense of underestimation, Saturday’s harrowing loss to Premier League relegation candidates West Brom would have served as a reality check.
Just like Sunday’s training confrontation between Antonio Rudiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga – both of whom were unused substitutes in the loss.
Life can change quickly if you are a football manager. From 14 undefeated games to his first defeat as Chelsea head coach, to the separation of two players after an angry clash – Tuchel has figured out the hard way how quickly things can change.
From 14 undefeated games to his first defeat as Chelsea boss, it’s been a wild week for Tuchel
At the bust-up, Tuchel explained: ‘I don’t want to downplay it with something artificial. These are things we don’t want to accept, but they can happen.
‘They are all competitors and want to win. The response was not okay. But the response to it, how the guys handled the situation, especially Toni and Kepa, was amazing and showed how much respect they have for each other.
‘They cleared the sky right away. That showed me that they have a very good character. Toni fixed it right away, and it was a strong and brave thing to do. ‘
Tuchel hopes the weekend’s events are no sign of what will happen on Wednesday night as he enters the biggest game of his Chelsea tenure.