TCC View: Tuchel's gamble in 6-0 win can be Chelsea's answer to Real Madrid's Vinicius threat
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel will have to find a solution to nullify Vinicius Jr ahead of Tuesday’s second-leg clash against Real Madrid, and Cesar Azpilicueta’s likely absence will not help.
Karim Benzema was the one who punished Chelsea’s sloppy defence with his hat-trick first leg, but Vinicius’ pace and movements made it possible.
Andreas Christensen, who played on the right of the back three at Stamford Bridge, clearly had a hard time defending against the Brazil international.
Christensen was always going to struggle to compete with Vinicius’ pace, but Reece James’ constantly making overlapping runs to help the attack allowed Real Madrid too much space to work with on the left.
Tuchel said it was a “mistake” for him to allow this to happen tactically in the first place.
So what will be the plan ahead of the trip to Santiago Bernabeu?
Tuchel rested James in the 6-0 win over Southampton on Saturday and experimented with an interesting tactical plan in that game.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is naturally a midfielder, played as a right wing-back but operated more centrally than expected.
“It was not a moment for Reece to play another 90 minutes after his long injury against an intensive team like Southampton,” Tuchel told Chelsea TV after the win at St Mary’s Stadium.
“The role was a bit different [for Loftus-Cheek] as a wing-back today.
“We wanted him to be inside, almost as a number eight, and drive with the ball.
“We tried it, and he accepted it and made the most out of it. It was a very good performance.”
Reece James to play deeper for Chelsea against Real Madrid?
It is obviously riskier to play with an unconventional strategy against Real Madrid than Southampton, but by playing Loftus-Cheek as an inverted wing-back, Tuchel can perhaps play James as a right centre-back.
If any Chelsea defender could compete with Vinicius physically, it would be James.
Tuchel has already played James as a centre-back in several occasions before to deal with opposition quick forwards such as Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy last season.
While it would hinder James’ ability to help the attack, he is still such an accomplished crosser who can still send the ball into the box from deeper areas.
However, this time, Azpilicueta who usually played the right wing-back role instead, will likely miss Tuesday’s trip after testing positive for Covid-19.
That is exactly why Tuchel’s Loftus-Cheek gamble at the weekend may provide an alternative solution.