Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel says he is hoping to find a solution to combat the return of Sergio Ramos in their Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid. The German hinted that the Blues could operate with a ‘false nine’ in order to limit the Spaniard’s effectiveness.
The west London side go into Wednesday’s game with every chance of reaching their third Champions League final — and their first since 2012 — after securing a 1-1 draw at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on April 28.
Kai Havertz has been Tuchel’s preferred choice to lead the line in recent games and the 21-year-old impressed again in the role in the 2-0 win over Fulham, scoring both goals to double his tally to four in the league this season.
The alternative tactical plans could be to deploy Timo Werner as a central striker or turn to a target man such as Olivier Giroud, who has scored six goals in the competition so far, in a man-to-man aerial battle with the experienced Madrid captain.
But with Ramos set to return for the return fixture at Stamford Bridge after a spell on the sidelines, Tuchel admits he is yet to decide which plan to go with should the 35-year-old feature from the start.
“If we play with no striker at all and Ramos has nothing to fight then that can also be a solution. I have not made my mind up yet,” he told Chelsea’s official website.
“It’s another challenge because he is the leader of their group and he is the guy to give a lot of solutions to any questions that we will hopefully ask them.
“We will wait and see who is in good shape and good form, what shape we play and where we try to hurt them.
“I’m not too sure if they will play again with five or go back to four [in defence] so there are many questions, but we don’t need the answers now. It’s enough if we have them on Wednesday.”
Chelsea will go into the second leg in west London with some fitness concerns. Antonio Rudiger sustained a facial injury in the first leg and subsequently missed the Fulham match, but it appears the defender will wear a protective mask for the second leg.
However, Mateo Kovacic looks set to miss out on a reunion with his former club after suffering a setback in his recovery from a hamstring problem.
“For Toni, I think he will play with a mask. He trained on Saturday with a mask so it’s just about him getting used to it,” Tuchel said.
“It will be a very tight race for Kovacic. He had a little setback and felt something in not the same area but the same muscle as before. It’s very likely that he will not make it unfortunately.
Tuchel led Paris Saint-Germain to their first Champions League final in 2019-20 before losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in the final.
And the former Borussia Dortmund tactician is confident his side can deliver the result they need to edge one step closer to European glory.
“We have two training sessions now to prepare for Real Madrid so it will be exciting. I’m very happy with this group in the semi-final.”
“We feel ready for a big fight and I’m pretty sure that we need a big performance because Real Madrid will give us a hard time.”