Thomas Tuchel suggested he was unaware and not involved with negotiations after Romelu Lukaku's agent revealed plans to speak to Chelsea's prospective new owners about the striker's future.

Lukaku initially struggled on his Stamford Bridge return after joining Chelsea from Inter in a £97.5million move before the start of the 2021-22 season.

However, the Belgium international appears to be slowly finding his feet after managing a double against Wolves and striking in Wednesday's 3-0 Premier League win at Leeds United.

Yet reports of Lukaku's discontent continue to circulate. In December, the striker was quoted by Sky Sport Italy as being "not happy" with his place in Tuchel's first-team plans.

The 29-year-old again caused a stir on Friday after his agent Federico Pastorello suggested Lukaku could return to Italy, subject to negotiations with Todd Boehly's consortium, who have signed an agreement to purchase the club from Roman Abramovich in a deal that could be completed by the end of the month according to reports.

"He has [Inter] and the fans in his heart, he has never hidden it, like his love for Anderlecht where he would like to end his career," Pastorello told La Repubblica.

"But we cannot think about negotiations. Chelsea are in takeover discussions, we do not know the new owners, let alone if we can open talks with Inter or Milan. We have to wait.

"For the cost of the transfer, no one could have expected such a situation. I do not discuss the tactical choices, but it is obvious that there was a problem. The numbers, however, must be considered – he is still the team's best scorer, with less playing time compared to his team-mates.

"The situation must be carefully assessed, now there is Champions League qualification to secure, there is the FA Cup final. Romelu is focused on this, we have not talked about anything else."

Tuchel, speaking ahead of the FA Cup final with Liverpool on Saturday, admitted he did not expect to be involved in the planned talks when asked about Lukaku at a pre-match news conference.

"If he plans to talk with the owner then maybe it's not his plan to talk with me," Tuchel said. "Let's see if he gets a meeting, maybe he can talk.

"It's his right and we will talk to anybody and evaluate the situation of any player including Romelu. I was just [made] aware of it five, 10 minutes ago. That's what it is sometimes in football.

"The attention is so high that sometimes it attracts situations that you don't want to have before big matches. But it's the way it is.

"For me it's not a distraction, and for everyone else who works with the team hopefully it's not too."

Thomas Tuchel remains hopeful Mateo Kovacic can recover from injury to feature in the FA Cup final against Liverpool, where the German promised Chelsea will give their opponents a "hard fight".

Kovacic suffered an ankle injury following a lunging tackle that saw Dan James dismissed in Chelsea's 3-0 Premier League win over Leeds United on Wednesday.

Tuchel, speaking after the game, expressed his concerns over a "major injury" to the Croatia international on an otherwise "close to perfect evening".

However, Chelsea manager Tuchel provided a positive update on Kovacic as he revealed the midfielder had been given the green light to train by the medical team.

"We will try it today, which is pretty surprising news where we can even try it but Mateo wants to and the medical department gave the green light," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"The advantage is there is no new injury, the ligament was already torn from the last injury, but heavy pain, heavily swollen.

"So we're hoping that maybe time is enough that he makes it, we will try it in two-and-a-half hours in training and see. In the game [at Leeds], he was very, very good, in general, he has stepped up.

"The qualities of him and the personality, his dribbling and driving with the ball is excellent and he's a top team player.

"He played many years for Real Madrid so knows what it takes to put the ego aside and serve the team.

"We have missed him too much this season, with injuries over the season, and he is now so ambitious before the FA Cup final because he was excellent against Liverpool recently."

Tuchel also hopes to have N'Golo Kante back after the France international has missed the last three games, last featuring against Manchester United on April 28.

"It was a reduced training session because of a long journey and fatigue of travelling. We will also try today with him. He is keen to make it and hopefully he makes it to training 100 per cent," the German said of Kante.

Saturday will be just the second time the same two sides will contest both the EFL Cup and FA Cup final in the same campaign.

 

Jurgen Klopp's Reds were penalty shoot-out victors back in February and all three games in 90 minutes have finished level between the two teams this season.

The last fixture between two English top-flight sides to see more stalemates in the same campaign was Arsenal versus Chelsea in 2017-18 (4), and Tuchel expects the final to follow a similar pattern.

"It started with last season's game at Anfield, this season's draw at Anfield, a draw at Stamford Bridge, and then over 120 minutes and the penalties [in the EFL Cup final]," he added.

"I don't expect crazy new things from them and also not from us."

Chelsea are the first side to reach three consecutive FA Cup finals since Arsenal between 2000-01 and 2002-03.

However, after losing in both 2019-20 (v Arsenal) and 2020-21 (v Leicester City), they are looking to avoid three such final defeats since Newcastle United in 1998-99 and Tuchel believes an element of luck will be required.

"It's a big achievement to be in the finals and there has to be a loser in these finals," he said. "There is a special momentum you have to catch and a bit of luck.

"The atmosphere is right and the momentum is okay after the reaction at Leeds and everyone knows what we're up to. We want to arrive to give Liverpool a hard fight."

As for whether Kepa Arrizabalaga, who missed the decisive spot-kick in the EFL Cup final after being substituted on specifically for penalties, will be utilised in extra time again, Tuchel insists he has a plan.

"It's never done before and it's not done now. We have a plan for it. What we can do in terms of practising, I'm a bit torn about how much you can practice it," Tuchel continued.

"My players shoot a lot of penalties on a daily basis through the season, which in my opinion is good to have a certain routine for the players.

"But to shoot tomorrow after 120 minutes of intense fight and in a full stadium, it's a different story."

Timo Werner insists he has no regrets after choosing Chelsea over Liverpool as the two Premier League clubs prepare for the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp was said to have been a big admirer of Werner when the forward was as Stuttgart and the German was in charge of Borussia Dortmund in 2015.

Klopp subsequently left for Liverpool and was again a frontrunner trying to secure the services of Werner, who came into high demand from Premier League sides after impressing for RB Leipzig in 2020.

However, Chelsea acted the fastest to sign Werner in a £45million deal, beating the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United to the signing, while Liverpool opted for Wolves star Diogo Jota.

The Germany international struggled in his debut Premier League season, scoring six goals in 35 league appearances and converting just over 7.5 per cent of chances.

Werner has yet to hit the heights in the league again this campaign, managing just four goals in 21 games, but his performances in recent months have offered Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel encouragement.

No player has had a direct hand in more FA Cup goals this season than Werner (two goals, three assists) and he does not look back with regrets as Chelsea prepare to face Liverpool at Wembley Stadium.

"The only thing I can say is they have a German manager," the 26-year-old said to Standard Sport when asked about the links to Liverpool. "I have known him for many years before, because when I was in Stuttgart, he talked about going to Dortmund. Then I played not so well, so it was done.

"When I was in Leipzig, I had the possibility to come to the Premier League. Liverpool were also in my thoughts and were a big possibility for me, but at the end I decided for Chelsea and I won the Champions League title last year. It was not the worst decision."

 

Werner also heaped praise on Klopp, who will become just the second Liverpool manager to take charge of the club in the final of four major domestic/European competitions, after Bob Paisley.

"He is one of the best coaches we had in Germany," the striker said of Klopp.

"Not to attack our manager, but over the past years he won the most titles. He has a very nice personality – a personality that the German people love, because he seems like fun.

"The Germans love the types like Thomas Muller, Jurgen Klopp — they have empathy. They say what they think, and that is really important in this business, to not fake something.

"He's real. He is a funny guy and also, with his power on the sideline, he tries to bring the people with him. That's what we Germans like."

 

Meanwhile, Thomas Tuchel is set to take charge of his fourth major domestic/European final at Chelsea after being at the helm for just one year and 108 days (on the day of the final).

No manager has appeared in more finals in Chelsea's history (Jose Mourinho also four), and Werner was quick to credit Tuchel, while discussing his own problems in front of goal.

"He is on a level now where, when you say who are the best managers, you have only now Klopp, him and [Pep] Guardiola maybe," he added.

"I think maybe he is [demanding], because a lot of strikers this season have struggled a bit. I had so many disappointing moments when I normally can score.

"I know what I can do, because I did it in the past, maybe 100 times. I think it was a lot also on me, a lot on my head to get the things clear in front of goal.

"But you have to keep going and that's the thing that I learned over two seasons. It can't always go up.

"The five years before Chelsea, the last year was always going up. I never had so many problems in terms of scoring as I've had in the last year. But in the end, it helps you, it brings you to another level."

Thomas Tuchel is worried Mateo Kovacic may have sustained a "major injury" in the awful challenge from Dan James that reduced Leeds United to 10 men in Chelsea's 3-0 win on Wednesday.

Needing three points to get back on track in their pursuit of Champions League qualification, Chelsea's task was made easier at Elland Road by James' first-half red card.

In similar fashion to Luke Ayling's dismissal at Arsenal in Leeds' previous game, James lunged in on Kovacic, getting the ball but then planting his studs in his opponent's ankle.

That earned the 99th card of Leeds' league season and was soon followed by a landmark 100th (Kalvin Phillips' booking) – a Premier League first and evidence of the relegation battlers' ill discipline.

Chelsea, already 1-0 up through Mason Mount, took advantage with goals from Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku, although Tuchel surely would have preferred to play against 11 men and not lose Kovacic to injury days before the FA Cup final.

"If we did not have the major injury to Mateo Kovacic, it would have been close to a perfect evening," Tuchel told BBC Sport. "It was a very strong performance from the start.

"We accepted all the obstacles we'd have to face – a physical team and an emotional stadium. We were strong from the beginning and deserved to win.

"We never dropped in concentration. We stayed very disciplined to avoid any chance of offensive transition. We did what we had to do at a very high level."

On Kovacic's injury, the Chelsea coach added: "It looks swollen and painful. It's the same ankle he had injured already. It doesn't look good."

Kovacic was involved in an exchange with Leeds supporters as he made his way off, with the strugglers' home stadium again proving anything but a fortress.

Leeds have lost nine games and conceded 37 goals at Elland Road this season, both their second-worst home returns in top-flight seasons (10 defeats in 1946-47, 46 goals conceded in 1959-60).

It allowed Chelsea to complete their first top-flight double over Leeds since 1936-37.

"I'm gutted," Jesse Marsch added. "We give up an early goal and go down a man again – deja vu from the Arsenal game – against a real big opponent."

Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek believes he still has the quality to play for England and dreams of featuring at the 2022 World Cup.

Loftus-Cheek earned his maiden call-up to Gareth Southgate's squad when on loan at Crystal Palace in November 2017, producing a man-of-the-match performance on his senior debut in a 0-0 draw with Germany.

The 26-year-old was then a part of Southgate's 23-man party for the 2018 World Cup and appeared as a second-half substitute in the opening win over Tunisia.

However, he did not feature for the rest of the tournament, in which England were beaten semi-finalists by Croatia, and injuries forced him to withdraw from each national squad during the 2018-19 campaign.

A ruptured Achilles suffered in May 2019 kept him on the sidelines for over a year, but Loftus-Cheek now features regularly at Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel after a season on loan at Fulham in 2020-21.

Loftus-Cheek has played his most Premier League minutes for Chelsea this term (1,309) and started his most games (13), and he insists he still has the ability to perform for England, who head to Qatar in November.

"It's always a dream for me to play for England at a World Cup, so it was an incredible experience to be part of the squad in 2018 off the back of my first full Premier League season at Crystal Palace," he told Sky Sports. 

"I was feeling good but I've not been in the fold now for a while. I still want to play for England and I still believe my qualities will allow me to.

"I'll keep pushing but the focus right now is on getting a top-four finish and winning the FA Cup with Chelsea."

Loftus-Cheek's attention will turn to an FA Cup final against Liverpool on Saturday, after Chelsea visit strugglers Leeds United in the league on Wednesday.

The midfielder, who made his 50th league start for Chelsea last week, also believes his long-awaited chance to feature regularly offers those in the Blues' academy hope and a clear pathway to the first team.

"Chelsea have always brought through talent and made talent coming through the ranks," he added.

"For me, maybe I didn't really have anyone to look up to. Other than John Terry, there weren't players coming through from the academy to the first team regularly.

"I didn't have the idol to look up to and see where I could go but now you see the players who have reached the first team and hopefully the boys can see there is a pathway and see it can be done in different ways.

"You might not just go straight through, you might have to go on loan, but the pathway is there to end up in the Chelsea first team.

"If you're coming through from the Under 18s or Under 23s, just training with the first team can help so much.

"You can soak in so much information, but it does reach a point where you've played with the first team for a bit and you feel you can handle that level then for sure there's no substitute for playing regularly – whether that's in the Championship or a different country.

"You just need to get that stimulus of playing every week, and that's the foundation of your footballing knowledge. It helps you to better understand your body.

"I didn't necessarily have that consistency growing up so it was very difficult for me to have that base of fitness and confidence in myself but everyone has a different journey.

"Hopefully we can inspire those boys in the Under-23s and below that it can be done."

Thomas Tuchel has denied he was punishing his Chelsea stars when he called them in for training on their planned Sunday off.

There have been reports of unrest in the Chelsea dressing room, and a 2-2 draw with Wolves on Saturday was a sickener for the Blues after they led 2-0 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Chelsea face Leeds United in the Premier League on Wednesday, before tackling Liverpool in the FA Cup final on Sunday.

It is a huge week for the club, and Tuchel decided they should forfeit a day off for the sake of squad togetherness.

Head coach Tuchel said: "We came in. We planned a free day, but after the disappointment it was not even to punish them.

"Maybe some felt like it was a punishment, but it wasn't, because it was not the moment for a free day. I explained that it's better to be together and talk about it than to go [away] and everyone has his own opinion and everybody has his own truth, and you have maybe more risks to be in fragments than to be here."

He said Chelsea took part in "very light" training, and "spent time together discussing things how we wanted to approach the next days".

Tuchel says his job is becoming more demanding by the day as the club's ownership saga plays out.

Chelsea have agreed to terms for the sale of the club to an ownership group led by Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjorg Wyss for £4.25billion.

The Boehly-led consortium promises investment of £1.75bn into the club and is expected to be completed later this month, but for now Tuchel has his hands tied.

He can make plans for the transfer window and next season but cannot act on them, while the transition of ownership from Roman Abramovich to the new group runs its course.

Tuchel said the deal could "inject some positive energy", but he has yet to speak to Boehly and said the current circumstances are "quite challenging".

Asked if the sale process had been unsettling, Tuchel said: "It has, for sure. There's no sense in hiding from the fact it is a distraction.

"The players want to feel competitive; they want to know what's going on next season. A player like Toni [Antonio Rudiger] decided then to change the club. Every day it gets a bit more difficult. It had an influence and still we are looking to reach the level where we are competitive and can win games.

"It's no excuse, but it is a reason."

With oligarch Abramovich sanctioned by the UK government over alleged close links to Russian president Vladimir Putin, which Abramovich denies, there will be many relieved when the new owners get their deal across the line.

"At the moment it's a positive sign," Tuchel said. "It feels like it will come to an end and give us possibilities to act, but at the moment it's not like this."

Thomas Tuchel said his Chelsea side took too many risks as they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday.

On the day a £4.25billion sale of the Blues was agreed, Romelu Lukaku scored his first Premier League goals since a 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on December 29 to put the hosts 2-0 up before the hour mark.

Substitute Trincao set up a dramatic finale with a fine goal in the 79th minute, before Conor Coady sealed a point for Wolves with a header in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

That goal was the second-latest Chelsea have conceded in the Premier League since Opta have exact times available (from 2006-07), after Luis Suarez's strike for Liverpool in April 2013 (96:30).

The result meant the Blues failed to win a top-flight game in which they were 2+ goals ahead for the first time since October 2020 against Southampton (3-3), having won 24 consecutive such prior matches.

Although Tuchel was largely happy with his side's display, the German bemoaned an inability to play things safe after Lukaku's brace had put them in pole position to claim all three points.

"I thought we started both halves well with an offensive 5-3-2," he told a media conference.

"We knew about the risks and we need to be disciplined. We showed discipline over most moments of the first half. In some situations we took too many risks.

"That cost us some dangerous moments at the end of the first half. I reminded the players at half-time to stick to the plan. We were 2-0 up and again we took too many risks.

"We invited the counter-attacks and big chances. Once you do this, you lose confidence and invite the opponent to smell something is possible when it is unnecessary.

"It's not about dropping too much, it's about where we were losing the ball and the opponent taking a crazy approach. Big chances that we don't create, the pass is missing, the dribbling is wrong.

"At some point we played like we were 2-0 down not 2-0 up. We tried to change the structure. I don't know if that was the right decision from me, I need to watch it back."

Tuchel refuted suggestions that the announcement of the takeover, led by Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjorg Wyss, had any bearing on his side's late collapse. 

"I don't think ownership is a reason for lack of focus," he added. "We showed when the situation began that we can still focus. I would not consider this as an advantage for Leeds [who Chelsea play on Wednesday].

"It does not change much for us as the sanctions are not lifted. It's not worth thinking about, we have our own stuff to solve and make better."

Thomas Tuchel insists there are "zero problems" between himself and Christian Pulisic after the player's father tweeted about his recent lack of playing time.

United States star Pulisic featured as a substitute in the Blues' frustrating 1-0 Premier League defeat to Everton last Sunday, and though the former Borussia Dortmund man has made 34 appearances for Chelsea this season, only half have been starts. 

In a since-deleted tweet, Pulisic's father Mark lamented the "sad" situation the 23-year-old found himself in, sparking rumours of an exit for the attacker by saying there was a "big six months ahead".

Speaking ahead of Chelsea's home encounter with Wolves on Saturday, Tuchel brushed off suggestions that Pulisic was unhappy in west London.

"I'm not concerned if a father says a player loves me or not. I am not concerned about that, for sure," he said. "It's a normal thing.

"Every manager, we have our reasons to choose a line-up and have our reasons to go for players in the first 11. You will never see, in this kind of level of competition, happy faces from players that are not selected.

"Between Christian and me, there exists zero problems. He had a fantastic training week so far, he has a huge impact from the bench in some matches.

"I didn't even know [about] it [the tweet]. I don't want to get affected by it in my judgement, it has nothing to do with it.

"The players, in the end, are responsible to be and stay in the team. I will do my best to do the right judgement. Am I always right? For sure not. Is it always fair? For sure not.

"This is what you sign up for in a club like Chelsea. I haven't experienced the same reaction from Christian lately, it was actually the opposite – very strong, very positive in the last weeks."

After playing 1,866 minutes this season, Pulisic will be hoping to feature against Wolves as he looks to play his way into Tuchel's team for the FA Cup final against Liverpool on May 14, having scored in the Blues' 2-1 final defeat to Arsenal in 2020.

Chelsea have lost three of their last six Premier League matches (two wins, one draw), as many losses as they suffered in their first 28 league outings this season (17 wins, eight draws), and only 44 per cent of the Blues' Premier League points have come at home this campaign (29/66).

Only Watford (32 per cent) and Brighton and Hove Albion (36 per cent) have won a lower share of their points on their own grounds in the Premier League this season, although Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight home league games against Wolves (three draws, five losses), last losing to the midlands outfit at Stamford Bridge in March 1979.

Romelu Lukaku remains a "big player" for Chelsea, according to Thomas Tuchel, and the striker could make a long-awaited Premier League start against Wolves on Saturday.

Lukaku has endured a miserable first season back in England after making a club record £97.5million (€115m) return to Stamford Bridge from Inter last July.

The striker has scored only 12 goals and declared in an interview with Sky Sport Italia in December that he was not happy with his role under Tuchel.

Lukaku has remained out in the cold and has not started a top-flight game since a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in February.

Belgium's all-time leading scorer has been linked with a return to Inter at the end of the season, but Tuchel says he has a future at Chelsea and may be in the side to take on Wolves at Stamford Bridge.

When asked about Lukaku's future, the Blues boss said: "Yes, I want him to be an important part of the squad.

"He is right now a very important part of the squad and, next season, there is no recruitment [due to sanctions imposed on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich] and no players are about to leave, because it's simply not possible.

"We signed a big player and he still is a big player. He has trained very well and maybe starts tomorrow."

Tuchel has stressed the importance of "trust and commitment" as Lukaku endeavours to prove his worth.

"I don't know what needs to happen. He needs to happen. Everyone needs to happen. It's the life of a professional football player at this kind of level," Tuchel added.

"Everybody does their very best and it is the same for every player. Of course, we do the very best to integrate him and it needs to happen. He needs to happen. We need to support him and trust in what we do.

"There is not one thing that we can provide to make this happen. It's about trust, it's about commitment, about the feeling for the game, a bit of luck, game momentum. That's it."

Third-placed Chelsea have work to do in order to secure a Champions League place next season after a 1-0 defeat to Everton and Tuchel expects a response from that loss at Goodison Park. 

He said: "We need another reaction. That's where we are, we had a week to prepare, which was nice but not nice, because we prefer to play [in the] Champions League.

"But it was nice to have the team, to have influence in training to set the focus on things we want to improve. We want to meet our standards and we demand a lot from ourselves.

"I think there are a lot of reasons why it is sometimes normal to drop in intensity and to drop in the level of effort, but as we are an elite sports team and sports club competing on a very, very high level of this sport, there is not much room for normal behaviour.

"We want elite behaviour and this includes me. We want to step up and show another reaction and show that we can play better, we can have more impact in the matches and start from there on tomorrow."

Midfield duo N'Golo Kante and Jorginho will miss the clash with Wolves due to injury.

Thomas Tuchel says the future of every Chelsea player is uncertain amid the ongoing takeover saga but the Blues boss is "confident" the club will soon be under new ownership.

Chelsea have been in limbo since Roman Abramovich confirmed two months ago that he had put the club up for sale.

Sanctions imposed on Abramovich by the United Kingdom government due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine left Chelsea unable to offer Antonio Rudiger an improved contract, so the defender will leave as a free agent at the end of the season.

The London club have their hands tied, as they will be unable to bring in fresh faces or tie existing players down to new deals in their current predicament.

Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly was last week reportedly chosen as the preferred bidder to take over the cub, before Abramovich on Thursday hit out at "entirely false" claims that he has asked for the £1.5billion debt he was owed by Chelsea to be repaid.

Blues boss Tuchel is optimistic there will be a resolution before long and says it is vital for a takeover to be completed, with the futures of all of his players up in the air in the meantime.

He said in a media conference on the eve of Saturday's Premier League clash with Wolves: "I have been told last week that we have a preferred bidder and things are going forward, so it's a pretty important week now for the club but I was not involved. I was fully focused on the pitch, but after what I heard I'm confident."

Holders Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid last month before losing to Arsenal and Everton in the Premier League.

Tuchel feels it is only normal they will suffer setbacks due to off-field issues at the club.

He said: "Clearance is always the best, because when the situation is clear you can take actions, you can make a judgement and act. Otherwise you are in a passive role and that is what we are. We try to make the smallest issue possible, but of course it is there.

"We prefer to have it in a clear and forward-thinking situation and this is what we are looking and hoping for, that we know what we deal with and we know what the circumstances are in improving the team, not react or even worse do nothing."

He added: "It surely affects the team, but I cannot tell you to which degree. The longer the situation goes, now it has a huge effect because Toni leaves us in the middle of the process where we are sanctioned and we could not even fight, could not do offer or be in negotiations.

"It clearly has an effect and it makes not so much sense to deny it, we lose one of our key players so it is proven it has this effect. This decision has an effect on the dressing room, because Toni is not isolated when he is here at Cobham and not talking to anyone.

"He is a huge part, he is a leader and of course the situation is like that and the situation regarding the future of every individual player is not that clear, because there are no talks for nobody at the moment.

"Of course we try to minimise that influence, I think it's most important to accept it and not to use it as an excuse so if there's a certain degree of distraction, a certain degree of uncertainty, okay we accept it but there is still another 100 per cent to reach and this is still our level."

Thomas Tuchel acknowledged Chelsea are in danger of dropping out of the top four altogether after losing 1-0 to struggling Everton on Sunday.

Frank Lampard's Toffees snatched a potentially vital victory in their bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League for the first time, with Richarlison getting the decisive goal just after half-time.

Chelsea created several presentable chances but were denied by three wonderful Jordan Pickford saves as Everton held out under pressure at Goodison Park.

It was not so long ago that Chelsea appeared certain to finish in the top four, but they have won only once in their past four league matches, putting their position under pressure from Arsenal and Tottenham.

Tuchel insists he never felt completely safe, though.

“Of course, it was always like this," he told reporters when asked if they now face a battle to qualify for the Champions League.

"I said it many weeks ago that I didn't ever feel safe. We are never safe. By the way, if we are in a race for top one, top two, or top four, no matter what the race, the last four games to only have four points will never be enough, no matter which race we are in.

"We have to take care of ourselves. At the moment we don't get the points when we play well and deserve more and we lose when we play okay, this is a bad mixture."

Cesar Azpilicueta's dawdling on the ball ultimately led to Everton's winner, with individual mistakes becoming something of a theme in recent weeks for Chelsea.

Such errors, and how to eradicate them, have Tuchel at a loss.

"What can I do? The ball is free, then give a goal away. It is the worst thing that can happen to you in this atmosphere and situation. It happens too often, we struggle to play without big mistakes. That's why we struggle to have results.

"If there is something I can do I will try it but if I knew about it I would have done it before. I think, for me, the key is to have a clean sheet. Manchester United was a different game, more open, fluid, more spaces, and we finally scored late and conceded straight away.

"For me, this is more like the game against West Ham. The opponent defends deep, we struggle to find space in the first half, but against West Ham we had a clean sheet and played without any big mistakes.

"That gives us the chance to score late. If you run behind against an opponent like this, in this atmosphere and install emotion and belief in a stadium like this and the opponent's team, you struggle."

It was a bruising encounter, with referee Kevin Friend producing eight yellow cards in total.

The aggression displayed by Everton did not trouble Tuchel specifically, though he was critical of how the game was refereed.

"No, no, we expected [Everton to be aggressive]," he added. "It would have been nice to have a referee who was in charge of it – they got away with a lot. He decided to manage the game the way he did and I was not too happy with it, but it's his way.

"That is why it's important to not do any mistakes, instil belief, and to keep doing what we do on the highest level of focus. We struggled."

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe claims to have made an offer to buy Chelsea, rivalling three existing takeover bids for the Stamford Bridge outfit.

Chelsea were put up for sale by Roman Abramovich in March ahead of the Russian oligarch being placed under sanctions by the UK government in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Three consortiums remain in the running after making their offers to buy the club public, fronted by Todd Boehly, Martin Broughton, and Stephen Pagliuca, with the latter of the trio recently receiving the support of the True Blues consortium, which counts former Chelsea captain John Terry among its members.

However, Ratcliffe, whose chemical group Ineos already has extensive sporting ties, courtesy of owning Ligue 1 side Nice and enjoying sponsorship deals with the Ineos Grenadiers cycling team and Formula One's Mercedes, has now told the Times of his attempt to purchase the Blues.

"We put an offer in this morning," Ratcliffe said on Friday. 

"We are the only British bid. Our motives are simply to try and create a very fine club in London. We have no profit motive because we make our money in other ways."

Ratcliffe also told the newspaper that his offer included a pledge to invest heavily in the club's team and infrastructure over the next decade, with a new stadium or redevelopment of Stamford Bridge featuring heavily in statements made by representatives of each competing bid.

On the pitch, Chelsea appear destined to finish third in the Premier League table, with boss Thomas Tuchel this week warning the club could suffer from a disadvantage in the transfer market if the uncertainty surrounding their ownership is not resolved swiftly.

Thomas Tuchel is looking forward to meeting Frank Lampard in person for the first time and says the man he succeeded as Chelsea boss will always remain a Blues great.

Lampard won 11 major trophies across a legendary 14-year playing career with Chelsea and remains the London club's all-time leading scorer with 211 goals

The 43-year-old had less success in the Stamford Bridge dugout, however, as he lasted just 18 months at the helm before being sacked in January 2021.

Tuchel guided Chelsea to Champions League glory four months later and has won the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup this season.

Lampard is now in charge of Everton and has a serious task on his hands in keeping the Toffees in the Premier League.

Speaking ahead of their first managerial meeting at Goodison Park on Sunday, Tuchel revealed Lampard reached out to him when the German was first appointed by Chelsea.

"He sent me a very kind and respectful message after I took over," Tuchel said. 

"It meant a lot because I was a huge fan of him as a player and he'll remain a legend at our club, that's a given. I was very happy when he wrote me the gentlemanly message. 

"We didn't have a chance to meet before. When took over at Everton he took one of our assistants away with him (Joe Edwards) so we were not so happy with that! 

"We will see some familiar faces, with Joey and Ashley Cole also there. I never met Frank in person so I'll be happy to meet him. 

"But we arrive with our team needing points, and Everton need the points urgently as well."

 

Lampard will be the 10th former Chelsea manager to take charge of a Premier League match against the Blues.

Only one of the previous nine has won their first such match, with Claudio Ranieri winning 2-1 with Leicester City in December 2015.

Lampard may not have won any silverware while in charge of Chelsea, but he was widely praised for giving younger players such as Reece James and Mason Mount a chance.

The pair have continued to thrive under Tuchel, who is more than happy to select academy products if they are good enough for the first team.

Asked if he is grateful to Lampard for his previous work at the club, Tuchel said: "Frank didn't do it to do them a favour. Every coach does it because it's about helping them team. 

"If Thiago [Silva] helps us we don't care how old he is, and we don't care how young somebody is – if you're ready, you're ready. 

"I strongly believe you'll find your way if you have what it takes. I'm incredibly grateful for the academy quality and culture at Chelsea to push these boys through. 

"This is top, top quality. It is our job to let them play and push them – this is what Chelsea is all about."

Chelsea drew 1-1 with Manchester United on Thursday to move eight points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham in the race for Champions League football.

Everton's focus is on surviving the drop, with Sunday's contest the first time they have started a league game in the relegation zone since December 2019.

The Toffees beat Chelsea 3-1 on that occasion and Tuchel is not taking anything for granted this weekend at a raucous Goodison Park.

"Everyone tells me about the atmosphere at Goodison – how emotional and tough it is to play there," the German said. "I'm excited to go there and we expect a tough fight."

The uncertainty surrounding the ownership of Chelsea is hampering the Blues' planning in the transfer market, says head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Chelsea were allowed to continue operating despite restrictions on owner Roman Abramovich, who put the club up for sale after being sanctioned by the UK government following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

However, the Blues are banned from signing new players or agreeing contract extensions with existing members of their squad as per the restrictions imposed.

Antonio Rudiger has already confirmed his intention to leave, with Real Madrid the favourites to sign the centre-back when his contract expires.

Meanwhile, fellow defender Andreas Christensen is reportedly to join Barcelona after the conclusion of his deal in June 2023, placing strain on Tuchel's squad before the upcoming season has even started.

It is not just the outgoings that are frustrating Chelsea, the Blues are falling behind in incomings with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City moving for forwards Gabriel Jesus and Erling Haaland respectively.

Tuchel expressed his commitment but acknowledged Chelsea are already playing catch-up as they wait for the final bidder to be confirmed, and then cleared by the Premier League and government.

"[In a normal season], you are never fully sure but we would have some targets and we would have for sure contacted some players and found out about their situations," he said on Wednesday.

"Of course, now our hands are tied. We can still have talks inside the building but we cannot act. The situation is not ideal.

"It would be challenging enough with a stable situation but we don't have it. Everybody is doing it for the first time, we try to show our commitment and our passion for it.

"This is for me very important to give this message: I am committed, I am looking forward and I am passionate about it. As soon as we can act, we will try to act and turn things around.

"You could see we could not compete over the long run, we could compete in periods, we can compete in direct matches.

"I was so happy with the structure and mentality that Chelsea provides because for me that was the foundation to strongly believe we are capable and we will keep on pushing.

"With this now questioned, it is getting more demanding, not difficult because I don't know what's coming – but the thing for me is that we keep the mentality here in the building, the competitive mentality which was installed over a decade.

"This is a bit concerning and hopefully we can find our way through it."

Chelsea visit Manchester United on Thursday with third place in the Premier League all but secure, though they sit 15 points behind leaders Manchester City, who have played a game more.

Tuchel appreciates a sizeable rebuilding task will be required to compete with City and Liverpool next season, a challenge made more difficult due to the ongoing uncertainty.

Asked what was required to go head-to-head with City and Liverpool in the following campaign, Tuchel responded: "Cosmetic surgery! I would be less concerned if we had the same ownership and could rely on our structure.

"This is also a question. We are aware of the danger that the situation is maybe a bit more complex.

"And it can be complex enough if we lose a player like Toni and maybe lose another player like Andreas, their kind of quality and both of them free, that is demanding enough nowadays, to lose this kind of quality in a back three, lose two key players for free.

"It can be demanding enough even if everything else stays in place. So with this in question it can be a very demanding summer.

"I don't know if surgery is the right term for it but still I just want to be positive about it and speak to the things we can influence."

Thomas Tuchel knows "life will go on" at Chelsea after Antonio Rudiger and remains confident he can make the Blues competitive regardless of their transfer business this year.

Chelsea's activity in the upcoming window remains uncertain after the club were sanctioned due to Russian Roman Abramovich's ownership.

Rudiger has told Chelsea he will be leaving at the end of the season, with the defender one of a group of players out of contract while the Stamford Bridge outfit are unable to offer them new terms.

In a World Cup year, Tuchel is unable to offer any real certainty to his team as they consider their futures.

But the coach is backing himself to continue to deliver results even if Chelsea begin 2022-23 with a very different line-up.

"Yes, it's my job," he said ahead of Thursday's game against Manchester United.

"No matter how the situation will be solved and when it will be solved and how things will be settled and how active we can be in the transfer market, at the end, we will dig in and try to squeeze out everything from the squad we have.

"I know I will again fall in love with the squad I have then and try to push the squad to the limit.

"It was a pleasure every single day with Toni, but I'm a bit concerned we talk too much in the past about it; we have not reached all our goals for this season, so there are still things to achieve.

"[These are] big things and he is still a big part of this squad, and we demand still 100 per cent of him.

"This is where the focus is. Then, from pre-season next season, life will go on, if we like it or not, if we are happy about it or not. We will give our very best and I will be fully involved with all my heart and all my knowledge."

This was also perhaps a message for the Chelsea players who will be left behind, with Tuchel acknowledging they were unhappy to learn of Rudiger's exit.

"I don't think that anybody likes it, because Toni is a huge factor in our last one and a half seasons together," he said.

"He gives everybody confidence in the dressing room. He is a unique character, an aggressive leader. He is available like 90 per cent of the matches.

"He plays on an outstanding level and gives you confidence if you play next to him. He takes the focus away towards him, he takes responsibility, loves responsibility.

"I don't think that anybody likes this decision. We have to accept it, and we will accept it.

"Like it or not, there will be life at Chelsea after Toni. For now, for him and for us, the most important thing is that it ends like it started and like it was for the one and a half years, on the highest level possible."

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