‘Stress test is underway at Anfield’: Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea’s record signing Romelu Lukaku relishes the prospect of taking on Virgil van Dijk… while the Blues look to remain consistent to take 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 full Anfield will make the task harder on his part
- Chelsea improved under Tuchel last season – but still finished far from first place
Thomas Tuchel likes to get things done. Take a question posed on the eve of Chelsea’s trip to Liverpool, inviting him to compare his team to a genre of music, as Jurgen Klopp once described his style as heavy metal football.
Maybe something from his own record collection? Something like Just Red? Or grandpa? Tuchel burst out laughing.
“Imagine we were playing as Abba,” he bellowed. ‘How are we going to win games?’ Poor old Abba.
Thomas Tuchel didn’t label Chelsea’s style of football – but it’s a winning label
The Blues boss says record contractor Romelu Lukaku enjoys taking on Virgil van Dijk
Or take his reaction to the idea that Saturday’s game in Liverpool against Virgil van Dijk will be a better test of his £97.5million record by Romelu Lukaku than last weekend’s game against Arsenal.
Many managers would focus on such an issue, but Tuchel is not for tampering.
“The stress test is underway at Anfield,” he said. ‘I look forward. Many spectators and football fans are looking forward to that fight.
“It’s not just Van Dijk against Lukaku, it’s Liverpool against Chelsea, but of course it’s a big challenge for Romelu.
“He likes this kind of stage. So I expect the best we can see from him right now. He is a tough competitor against a strong opponent.’
Chelsea’s strong finish to last season under Tuchel, the Champions League win, the addition of Lukaku and their stylish start to the new season have led many pundits to tip them to win the Premier League.
“We’re one step closer now that we’ve signed him,” Tuchel said. “Now it’s about living it.
‘We have to prove it. And it’s not proven if you win two games; it’s just the beginning. We have to prove for a whole season that we are closing the gap.’
Chelsea finished fourth last season – two points behind Liverpool in third place and 19 adrift of champions Manchester City.
Chelsea rallied under Tuchel last season but they still finished 19 points behind Manchester City
“There are teams that have proven to be at a more consistent level over the past two or three seasons,” Tuchel said. “That’s why I still see us as the guys chasing Liverpool and both Manchester teams.
“We know very well what can happen if you pick up the momentum, if you get a streak and get good results in a row.
“It’s hard work, feet on the ground and when in doubt we keep our mouths shut and keep working and not talking.”
But make no mistake, Chelsea are growing in confidence, once again confident 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 kind after successes under Didier Drogba and Diego Costa – and they remain active in the transfer market, chasing Sevilla’s French defender Jules Koundde and Atletico Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Saul Niguez.
Like their visitors, Liverpool have won the first two games without conceding a goal. Van Dijk and Joel Matip have reunited in central defense and the fans are back, sure to give their title rivals a hostile reception.
Chelsea want to capture Jules Koude (pictured) and Saul Niguez before the window closes
Tuchel admits the prospect of going to Anfield with fans is a more difficult proposition
“Certainly another proposition,” Tuchel added. “That’s not an excuse, it’s the reality and we shouldn’t hide from it. Liverpool with Van Dijk is a different Liverpool than without him.
“He along with Matip is a huge upgrade to March and spectators can be a big factor at Anfield. It is one of the most difficult challenges you can face in European football.
“I feel like we’re ready for battle at that level.”