Thomas Tuchel admitted that Chelsea‘s humbling by West Bromwich was a “slap in the face” – but insisted that he and his team will bounce back against Porto on Wednesday night. The Chelsea manager saw his honeymoon run of 14 games without a loss come to a crashing and unexpected halt at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, as struggling West Brom capitalised on Thiago Silva’s sending off to romp home 5-2.
It was a result which, as West Ham won at Wolves on Monday night, saw Chelsea tipped out of the top four spot they previously seemed certain to clinch.
Coupled with the news of the training ground bust up between Antonio Rudiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga on Sunday, it seemed that suddenly the Tuchel bubble had spectacularly burst.
And coming just before a tricky Champions League quarter-final first-leg clash with Porto on Wednesday evening (8pm) in Seville, it was not the preparation Tuchel wanted.
But the German last night insisted his men will bounce back – and there is no question mark over their character.
Tuchel said: “I have high demands from myself and the results of the teams I coach – so that was a big slap in the face.
“If we needed a reminder, that was it. We will never accept for ourselves conceding five goals at home.
“But it is my job not to get lost in my anger and disappointment. There are things we need to do better. It is the moment to improve.
“It is not a question of character. We showed a lot of character in the first fourteen matches. Now we have a setback, maybe it reminds us that the race is not finished.
“It was our fault we lost, our fault we got a red card and our fault to gamble on the red card. Now we have to deal with the consequences.
“At Chelsea we hate to lose. This makes us stronger. It is about the reaction. We won together – and now we bounce back together.”
Tuchel bizarrely insisted that the stats – apart from the scoreline – showed that they should have won against Sam Allardyce’s team.
He said: “I was tempted to bet a lot of money in the 45th minute that we would win it when I watched it back on video, but we didn’t.”
The Chelsea manager whose team are in the Champions League quarter finals for the first time in seven years, warned: “Porto will play their role as an underdog – we come from the Premier League, they play in the Portuguese League.
“They are a very strong team in the Champions League. But we are strong enough to overcome them.”
N’Golo Kante will be on the bench after his hamstring strain, but both Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham are fit, with Tuchel expected to make changes.
Mateo Kovacic meanwhile denied that Chelsea’s players cheered when they drew Porto in the Champions League quarter-finals – instead of Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain.
Former Porto legend Paulo Futre after the draw said he was “disgusted” at reports that Chelsea’s players had cheered at avoiding some of the ‘big guns’- and defender Pepe said he also heard Chelsea had ‘celebrated’.
But Chelsea midfielder Kovavcic, a former team-mate of Pepe’s at Real Madrid, denied the claims, saying: “Of course not – it is strange to hear that from Pepe.
“I played with him for three years. I love him. I don’t know what he means – or if he actually said it.
“I didn’t celebrate. I know that in these stages of the Champions League, there are no lucky or bad opponents.
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“This is a tough draw. Porto are an amazing team. We saw that when they knocked out Juventus in the last round – that is a big opponent.
“Porto showed a great character, great team spirit. We need to do our best to go through them, but it will not be easy.”
Kovacic, now 26, was involved in three Champions League winning finals squads with Real between 2016-18 — but never set foot on the pitch. He said: “It would be amazing to play a final with Chelsea.
“This Chelsea team can go very far. We have a great mixture of young talents and experienced players. We are ready for every opponent.”