Thomas Tuchel has branded Jurgen Klopp a ‘master underdog’ as he praised his compatriot for sparking nationwide ‘sympathy’ for Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola has lit a fuse between his Manchester City side and Klopp’s Liverpool by claiming ‘everyone in this country’ wants the Reds to achieve an unprecedented treble this season.
Liverpool could yet sweep the table in the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League.
But Chelsea can thwart Liverpool’s bid to break new ground in English football by beating Klopp’s men in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley.
German managers Tuchel and Klopp will meet for the 19th time in top-flight football this weekend, in a repeat of the Carabao Cup final in February, when Liverpool won 11-10 on penalties. goal.
Blues boss Tuchel has admitted his admiration for Klopp’s ability to generate neutral support for the Anfield club.
“There is huge sympathy for Liverpool, I feel that too, all over the country and I can understand that,” Tuchel said.
“Of course it’s also because of Jurgen, but in general what this club stands for and how he runs the business, and how the fans push their team.
“You get the feeling it’s all about football and it’s like a huge story at this club and there’s a huge sympathy for that.
“If you fight against that, like Pep has for many, many years, I can understand his comment that it feels like that sometimes.
“But at the same time, I don’t think it’s just here. It’s in Germany like that and in France too.”
Asked about the origin of these sympathies, Tuchel replied: “You know that Klopp is the master of being the underdog.
“He can convince you to be the underdog against Villareal and against Benfica, and it’s a miracle, a miracle that they even draw against them.
“He can talk to you about it and he does it all the time, he does it often. That’s part of it, it’s also like where sympathy comes from.
“There is nothing to envy from my side. Klopp is a fantastic guy, a funny guy, one of the very, very best coaches in the world and that’s what he does.
“When he was coaching Dortmund, the whole country loved Dortmund. So now he’s coaching Liverpool and you get the feeling that the whole country loves Liverpool.
“It’s a big, big, big credit for him and that’s what you face if you play a team against him, it’s always like that, but that’s always the fun part and so if we we’re the bad guys tomorrow, so no problem.
“If we take on this role, no problem. We don’t want to have the sympathy of the country tomorrow – we want to have the trophy.”
Tuchel admitted Chelsea need to stand firm against Klopp’s charm which has created a close bond with Liverpool supporters.
“You have to stand up to that, but also have confidence in yourself and do your thing and not let yourself be swayed,” Tuchel said.
“I was even the guy behind him, after him at Dortmund. It was another role to do that and not always easy.
“But I have nothing but the utmost respect for him for what he does. But he is very charismatic.
“He is one with the fans and the club and he is the face, the charismatic leader of this development, of this huge club.
“It’s a club with a huge, huge reputation, not only in Europe, but all over the world, so my players have to oppose it and I have to oppose it.”
Tuchel will bet on Kovacic, Kante
Tuchel is hopeful Chelsea midfielders Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante will be available for Saturday’s FA Cup final and admits he is willing to bet on the duo’s fitness.
Kovacic looked set to miss the game after being sent off with an ankle injury after Daniel James’ red-carded tackle in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Leeds on Wednesday.
But speaking in his pre-match press conference, Tuchel revealed that Kovacic was due to take part in Chelsea’s afternoon training session on Friday in a bid to prove his suitability to face Liverpool.
“We’re going to try it today which is quite surprising news,” he said of the Croatia international. “Mateo wants to try it and the medical department has given the green light to try it.
“The advantage is that the ligament is torn anyway since the last incident, so there is no new injury, but a big pain. It was very swollen.
“We hope there may be enough time for him to be successful, but we will try him in training and we will know more.”
When asked if Kovacic would need surgery at the end of the season to repair the damaged ligament, Tuchel added: “No. How I understood it as a non-expert is that great mobility [of his ligament] helped him get through it without a big injury.”
On Kante, who has missed Chelsea’s last three games with an unspecified injury, Tuchel said: “He’s trying too. He tried yesterday in team training, hopefully now with no reaction.
“It was a reduced training session due to the long trips and the fatigue of the trip, so it was not a high intensity session. But he is keen to do it and I hope he will manage to s ‘training at 100% so we can plan with him tomorrow. That would be crucial for us.
When asked if he would be willing to take a risk with either player given the importance of the game, Tuchel added: “Now is the time to take risks.”
Tuchel insisted he was in the dark over claims that striker Romelu Lukaku’s agent is planning talks with the club’s new owners over his future at the end of the season.
“I think if he plans to speak with the owner, maybe it’s not his intention to speak with me,” Tuchel said. “That’s fair enough. Let’s see if he gets a date! It’s his right.
“We will talk to anyone. We will assess any situation of any player, including Romelu. We will see what will happen and what the plans are.”
The Belgian endured a difficult season in west London but followed up his brace against Wolves at the weekend with another goal in the win over Leeds, giving Tuchel a dilemma over whether he should. throw or Kai Havertz up front.
“We can also play both, although they lacked the feeling of being perfectly matched a bit,” Tuchel said. “It’s very likely to be one of the two but we won’t give the line-up today.
“Look, Romelu has been playing lately and scoring lately. He’s done everything to stay on the pitch. It’ll be our last call tomorrow morning.”
Klopp: FA Cup is huge for us
Jurgen Klopp is determined to win the FA Cup for the first time in his tenure at Liverpool as the Reds aim to keep their four-time bid alive, but he expects another hard-fought encounter.
Liverpool and Chelsea could only be separated by an epic penalty shootout in February’s Carabao Cup final, with Klopp’s side emerging 11-10 winners after an absorbing goalless draw, while their two Premier League fixtures this season have also ended in draws.
“We didn’t ‘beat’ Chelsea, we won the penalty shootout, one of the craziest shootouts ever,” he said of the Carabao Cup final .
“We know that in football, without luck you don’t have a chance and that night I think luck was more on our side in the shootout.
“It was a tough game. We know how good Chelsea are and we expect another tough game. Both teams will go with everything they have, that’s what I expect from Chelsea and above all from U.S.
“What we realized from the Carabao Cup is what an important occasion Wembley is at the moment with everyone. It was exceptional and we want it to happen again.”
He continued: “I have never won the FA Cup before and most of my players have never won it.
“We’re really looking forward to this opportunity. The boys have worked really hard to get there with all the different challenges. It’s a huge final for us and we’re really happy to be a part of it.
“It’s never going to happen that we see the FA Cup final as a normal game. It’s a special game, for some of us the biggest of their careers and we really want to enjoy it too. We want deliver it to our people.”