EPL

Chelsea will not get lost in 'honeymoon atmosphere', vows Tuchel

By Sports Desk March 12, 2021

Thomas Tuchel has vowed he will not allow his Chelsea players to get caught up in a "honeymoon atmosphere" after his fine start in charge at the club.

Since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel has revived the Blues' fortunes.

Chelsea have gone 11 matches unbeaten across all competitions, winning eight.

They travel to Leeds United on Saturday sitting fourth in the Premier League table, still in contention for Champions League and FA Cup glory as well.

Tuchel was asked when he thinks his honeymoon period will come to an end ahead of the trip to Elland Road.

"Hopefully [it can go on forever]!" said Tuchel. "Hopefully it lasts until Saturday and we keep on winning and performing. 

"It is a pleasure to be here, I'm very happy and grateful for that. 

"Nevertheless, we are here to do a job: we need to win games. We need to take care about the atmosphere, and this is what we do. 

"We cannot get too lost in a honeymoon atmosphere, or anything else, we have to be focused. 

"This is what we do, what we try, to reach our best level. 

"We will for sure not waste one second reflecting on maybe when this will end. That is not what we are focused on, we are focused on continuing to press on."

Tuchel is only on an 18-month contract at Chelsea but already feels extremely settled just over six weeks into his tenure.

The former Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund boss added: "I feel very comfortable, very happy. 

"All I wished for as a coach is here. I feel a part of a big football club that is run like a family, I feel a lot of support and feel very, very comfortable with my team. 

"It is a pleasure to compete with them, to be on the sideline, to be around them and be in Cobham, in this club, every day. 

"This is maybe what you feel out there, because it's the reality regarding my feelings and my situation here."

Victory over Leeds would put Chelsea third in the table, given Leicester City do not face Sheffield United until Sunday.

Chelsea have lost away to a promoted club in each of the past three Premier League seasons (Newcastle United in 2017-18, Wolves in 2018-19 and Sheffield United 2019-20). 

Having already won at Fulham and drawn at West Brom this season, avoiding defeat against Leeds will ensure they keep up a record of never losing to a promoted side for four consecutive campaigns.

Leeds come into the game after losing a second consecutive Premier League game for the fifth time this season.

However, they are yet to lose three in a row so far in the campaign. Indeed, they have not lost three consecutive league games since November 2017.

Related items

  • Liverpool fan LeBron James predicts Champions League triumph Liverpool fan LeBron James predicts Champions League triumph
  • James Tavernier, the Trent of the Europa League with sights set on final glory James Tavernier, the Trent of the Europa League with sights set on final glory

    James Tavernier's first Europa League run appeared likely to be his last.

    The right-back finally got his chance at Newcastle United in 2012-13 as Alan Pardew's first-team squad was stretched to breaking point.

    However, Tavernier's chance equated to just eight appearances and five starts in all competitions, utilised right across the defence. He played 301 minutes in Europe (including qualifiers) but looked a little out of his depth.

    By the time Newcastle reached the quarter-finals of the competition, Tavernier had played his last game for the club.

    The following season brought the fifth and sixth loan moves of his career – all to League One or below. A permanent transfer to Wigan Athletic followed, but Tavernier was soon back out on loan again – to League One again.

    This underwhelming sequence of temporary moves to the third tier for a player once seen as a potential Premier League starter was interrupted then by Rangers. Heading to the Scottish Championship, it would have taken incredible foresight to even imagine how Tavernier's career might be transformed.

    Newcastle may not have had another European campaign in the past nine years, but Tavernier has enjoyed five – and now, in Seville, a final.

    The right-back goal machine

    Rangers hoped for goals when they struck a deal with Wigan to bring Martyn Waghorn and Tavernier to Ibrox in 2015. Waghorn delivered in the club's promotion campaign, scoring 28 times in all competitions, but Rangers surely could not have anticipated Tavernier would also chip in with 15.

    While Waghorn is long gone, having not performed at quite the same level on Rangers' return to the top tier, Tavernier has since maintained his staggering standard. In 345 Rangers appearances, the defender has scored 83 goals.

    This season, Tavernier has scored 18 goals and assisted a further 16 for 34 goal involvements.

    Having either scored or assisted every 147 minutes on average in 2021-22, Tavernier is operating in the same sort of range as Rafael Leao (141), Dejan Kulusevski (144), Luis Suarez (153) and, incredibly, Sadio Mane (157).

    Nahuel Molina, the highest-scoring defender in Europe's top five leagues, has scored just eight times, while even Trent Alexander-Arnold's leading goal involvements tally of 20 is dwarfed by the man playing north of the border.

    Tavernier's status as Rangers' penalty taker boosts his numbers, of course, but he still has six goals and 22 goal involvements discounting his dozen efforts from 12 yards.

    The standard of the competition in Scotland might also be counted against Tavernier, yet his 16 European appearances alone have yielded seven goals (three non-penalty goals), three assists and 10 goal involvements – again at a rate of one every 147 minutes.

    Top marksman with Morelos missing

    Tavernier's first goal involvement of this European campaign saw the Rangers captain lift a pass in behind the Alashkert defence for Alfredo Morelos to score what proved to be the decisive goal of their Europa League play-off, getting the then Scottish champions back on track after Champions League qualifying heartbreak.

    Wednesday's final against Eintracht Frankfurt would not have been possible without that August example of this most effective assister-scorer combination.

    Unfortunately, Rangers will not be able to rely on that link-up again this week, with Morelos ruled out for the season when he underwent thigh surgery last month, seemingly dealing a sizeable blow to his side's hopes of European glory.

    Morelos, with 29 goals, is Rangers' all-time leading European marksman, while he this season also became their top scorer discounting qualifiers as he brought his total to 15.

    "It is a big blow to us, because he is our striker and we now don't have him any more this season, so we are disappointed," manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst said.

    "But we know what the problem is, how long he's out, and we have to move on. That's the only thing we have to do now."

    Tavernier has since ensured the talismanic forward has not been missed. His seven goals are the most ever by a Rangers player in a European campaign (excluding qualifiers) – Morelos in 2019-20 had a share of the previous record of six – and remarkably make him the leading scorer in this season's Europa League.

    The man for the big occasion, each of Tavernier's goals have come in the knockout stage, including opening the scoring in each of Rangers' four home legs.

    When Kemar Roofe joined Morelos on the sidelines against RB Leipzig in the semi-finals, it was Tavernier who appeared in the centre-forward position to level the tie in Glasgow with his 15th European goal (10 excluding qualifiers).

    Trent of the Europa League

    The first of Tavernier's European goals came back in July 2018, by which point Alexander-Arnold had already played in a Champions League final for Liverpool.

    Alexander-Arnold might be seven years Tavernier's junior, but he has been a source of inspiration in recent seasons for the Rangers skipper, who named him alongside Liverpool team-mate Andy Robertson and Brazil greats Dani Alves, Marcelo and Cafu in October 2020 as a standard-bearer in the full-back role.

    And comparisons between the pair, both of whom are preparing for European finals, come easily.

    Alexander-Arnold has created 19 chances in the Champions League this season, just behind Tavernier's 20 in the Europa League, with the pair each highly influential both in open play and from set-pieces.

    Tavernier makes a long list of English right-backs who remain uncapped at international level due to the incredible competition in Gareth Southgate's Three Lions squad, and former Rangers captain Lorenzo Amoruso tells Stats Perform: "I showcased him in Italy, but nobody cared because, of course, it happened to me, too: the best player in Scotland, thanks to some unbelievable performances, but never a call for the national team.

    "I think I deserved it – at least as a reward or out of curiosity. This Amoruso, as a defender, becomes the best player in Scotland... it is not something that happens every day. The same applies to Tavernier."

    Yet even Alexander-Arnold has only turned out 16 times for England, clearly behind Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and now Reece James in the pecking order.

    The explanations for Alexander-Arnold's limited opportunities often focus on his defensive shortcomings – the same attributes for which Tavernier has come under scrutiny.

    However, neither have committed an error leading to a shot, let alone a goal, in the Champions League or Europa League this season, and Tavernier actually measures favourably next to Alexander-Arnold by several defensive metrics.

    Alexander-Arnold has made 1.9 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per 90 minutes to Tavernier's 1.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions, but the Liverpool man has been dribbled past every 54 minutes on average and won only 48.2 per cent of his duels. Tavernier has been dribbled past every 150 minutes and won 56.3 per cent of his duels.

    Those numbers will perhaps regress a little next season if Tavernier is playing in the Champions League, but he has to get there first by beating Frankfurt. And Rangers will likely be more concerned by their right-back's attacking output on Wednesday than his work going the other way.

  • US PGA Championship: The experts' picks to win at Southern Hills Country Club US PGA Championship: The experts' picks to win at Southern Hills Country Club

    The season's second major gets under way on Thursday, as the US PGA Championship starts at Southern Hills Country Club.

    Despite being included in the field for the tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, reigning champion Phil Mickelson will not be on hand to defend his title.

    Mickelson, who became the oldest player to win a major when he triumphed at the US PGA in South Carolina last year, is continuing his break from golf, which came after criticism over his comments regarding the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway Golf Super League.

    While the GSL cloud hangs over the heads of certain players who have requested releases from the PGA Tour, the focus this week will be on claiming the huge prize of a major title.

    Tiger Woods is back, after his remarkable Masters return, while world number one Scottie Scheffler is on the hunt for another major title following his success at Augusta.

    Stats Perform's experts have taken a look at some of the likely candidates.

    No stopping Scottie – Ben Spratt

    Only three men have won both the Masters and the US PGA in the same year, with Jack Nicklaus the last to do so in 1975. That is the esteemed company Augusta champion Scheffler hopes to be keeping – and you would be bold to back against him this season. Scheffler ended 2021 ranked 12th in the world and still waiting on his first PGA Tour victory. He has since won four times, including at the Masters, to become world number one and the clear man to beat. The 25-year-old has two top-10 finishes in both entries at this tournament and played a practice round at Southern Hills earlier this month to prepare himself for another tilt.

    Rahm makes timely return to form – Patric Ridge

    World number two Jon Rahm will tee off in Oklahoma on Thursday on the back of winning the Mexico Open last time out. Rahm has finished in the top 15 in six of the 11 competitions he has featured in this season. Prior to his win in Mexico, the Spaniard's putting had been letting him down, but the rest of his game has been top-notch. Rahm's strokes gained off the tee is a PGA Tour-leading 1.311, while his strokes gained tee to green also ranks first (1.808). The 27-year-old finished T8 in this major last year and his best result was T4 back in 2018 – he could be celebrating back-to-back wins on Sunday.

    First major to get Burns treatment – John Skilbeck

    Sam Burns missed the cut at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but we should forget that; one bad round cost him and there have been very few of those this season from the 25-year-old. Besides, he followed that 73 with a gutsy 67. Admittedly, Burns also missed the cut at the Masters, but he has titles at the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Valspar Championship in the current campaign, successfully defending his title at the latter after a breakthrough win last year. He has achieved six top-10 finishes in the 2021-22 season, has banked almost $4.5million, and sits second in the FedEx Cup standings. The PGA Championship can throw up funky winners and Burns might just be ready to join the list. He has yet to challenge in a major but that surely must change soon.

    Rory can end major drought – David Segar

    It is eight years since Rory McIlroy won the last of his four majors at the PGA Championship, but the Northern Irishman can end that drought this week. He produced a late surge to finish second in The Masters, with a stunning Sunday 64. McIlroy is third on the PGA Tour for shots gained off the tee. His two scores of 68 over the weekend earned fifth place at the recent Wells Fargo Championship, setting him up nicely for another major challenge.

    Spieth slam? Oh, it's on… – Pete Hanson

    Is this the week Jordan Spieth completes the Grand Slam? A tie for 71st and 30th in his last couple of attempts don't make for particularly good omens but Spieth is a player reborn. Having slipped as low as 92nd in the Official World Golf Rankings after last year's Farmers Insurance Open, Spieth has gone about climbing back into the world's top 10 and was back among the winners' circle at the RBC Heritage last month. A missed cut at the Masters was not the start he envisaged to major season but Spieth is at his best with his back against the wall and can firmly be in contention to lift the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.