Thomas Tuchel has discussed how watching and talking with Pep Guardiola helped him become the manager he is today, ahead of his Chelsea side’s meeting with Manchester City on Saturday.
The pair go head-to-head this weekend for the first time since the UEFA Champions League final – which Chelsea won 1-0 – in what promises to be a crucial game in the race for the 2021/22 Premier League title.
Both sides have enjoyed a brilliant start to the current campaign under their superstar managers, with Chelsea sitting top of the table and unbeaten, and Man City trailing behind by just three points.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference (quotes via the Telegraph), Tuchel revealed his admiration for Guardiola and how he’s followed the City manager’s entire career.
“I am not a fanboy. But I am simply impressed, I am absolutely impressed and it was like an honour to speak to him and have the chance to hear his beliefs,” he said.
“You instantly know: OK this is now the highest level because I have never experienced a Pep team not being on the highest level. It was with Barcelona, it was with Bayern Munich, it’s now with City. So once you meet him in the stadium, you know this is going to be a tough one and the air is thin now.”
Tuchel also discussed how difficult it was to face Guardiola’s all-conquering Bayern Munich back when he was manager of German minnows Mainz.
“I had to suffer,” he continued. “He beat me I think four times so I had to also deal with it and come back from it
“If you are a coach at Mainz you cannot come up with the idea of ‘let’s play like Barcelona’. So it was more about understanding how he implements, how much of an influence (he had), what did he do, what changes did he do technically, how he implemented a counter-pressing. On this kind of level. And then he did it again at Bayern and now again at City. It’s simply outstanding. Look at all the trophies.
“But [back then] it was so far out of reach to be able to even compete with him on the same level. So that’s why I am absolutely grateful now and believe it or not I’m happy that I arrived at a club and a team with confidence that, okay, if we play at our very best level we are a team that can compete with Pep’s team and this is actually a good feeling because it means you are in a good place as a coach.”
Tuchel will be hoping his tactical awareness of Guardiola will be enough to see Chelsea over the line on Saturday.