'Huge reputation' - Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel on his Leeds United memory and challenge facing Marcelo Bielsa
CHELSEA boss Thomas Tuchel will take in a double-whammy of two notable firsts in Saturday's clash at Elland Road.
A first clash of his managerial career against Marcelo Bielsa, and a first game facing Leeds United Football Club.
Yet for Tuchel there will be nothing alien or unfamiliar about either given his respect for Bielsa as a coach and past experience of the Whites in Stuttgart as a player.
Tuchel will take in his 12th game as a Premier League manager in Saturday's clash against Leeds in West Yorkshire.
The 47-year-old German is approaching the clash still unbeaten as Blues boss in the latest chapter in his burgeoning managerial career.
That career as a first team coach began at Augsburg Reserves in 2007 whom Tuchel left to take charge of Mainz 05 in 2009, replacing none other than Jurgen Klopp as Klopp left for Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund then proved Tuchel’s own next port call too in April 2015 as part of a managerial journey that then took the German boss to Paris Saint-Germain and now Chelsea.
Despite over a decade in first team management, the Blues boss has yet to face Bielsa.
Yet before his time in the dugout began, Tuchel can still remember VfB Stuttgart facing the Whites back in the Autumn of 1992 in the European Cup first round when defender Tuchel was plying his trade in Stuttgart as a player for second tier Stuttgart Kickers.
It means the Blues boss knows all too well the size and stature of Leeds - and the fascination with Bielsa speaks for itself.
Assessing the prospect of his first meeting against Bielsa, and whether it was a challenge to out tactic him, Tuchel said at his pre-match press conference: “It’s always a challenge but never too personal. When you are a manager in the Premier League, like I said at the beginning, the challenge is that you face all these big clubs with a huge reputation.
“I remember Leeds United when I was actually a player in the second division in Germany and Stuttgart. The club played Leeds United in this famous game.
"There was a mistake in exchanging players so things had to be retaken. It was more or less a Champions League game against Leeds United. So there are big teams out there.
“Tomorrow again, a club with big history, strong, strong players, and a strong manager.
“Bielsa is clearly one of the most fascinating managers out there. He has a big personality for sure.
“But like with any other game, I don’t put pressure on myself that I have to beat or out-tactic Marcelo Bielsa. This is not how we approach games.
“I don’t want to interfere with my team, not disturb [what they’ve been doing]. This is the secret.
“We will totally focus on us, what to do in attack and how to defend. They have clearly built a strong squad to get promoted and to play this season like this. It’s amazing.”
Tuchel was still at PSG when Leeds faced a Chelsea side under Frank Lampard on December 5 of last year.
A 3-1 victory sent the Blues top yet less than three months later Lampard found himself sacked with Chelsea ninth.
Tuchel then took over and his tenure has began with eight wins and three draws that have elevated the Blues to fourth.
Bielsa has been impressed.
“They are in a positive dynamic in terms of results and they have clear confidence in how they manage the ball,” said United’s head coach.
Asked how Leeds could break Chelsea down given the Blues firepower at the other end, Bielsa said simply: “We have to try to defend well and attack better than they do.”
Against a side that have conceded just once in their last seven games, that will be easier said than done but Tuchel has a huge respect for Bielsa’s coaching methods.
“He built a strong squad and his style of play is intense and unique,” said the Chelsea boss, as quoted at his press conference by football.london.
“We see this in all their matches including when they played Chelsea.
"They are very intense games with a lot of intense runs from Leeds. It is a very flexible midfield where they change positions all the time. It is very attacking and they try to win every game.
“If you look at all their games – I think they have only two draws until now – they are brave, courageous and trust in their physical ability to do high-intensity runs. You have to match it.
"If you can control the game, okay, you will try to but there will be moments where you have to match this physicality.
“We will find the squad to do that and we had some pictures from the pitch, so we also have to adapt to a pitch that’s by far not the standard we are used to playing on.
"We have to adapt, that’s our job.”
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Thank you Laura Collins