The countdown is officially on.
The Blues, who secured a top four finish in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon, despite suffering a final day defeat to Aston Villa at Villa Park, will lock horns with Manchester City in Porto in the second all-English Champions League final in just three seasons.
Whilst Chelsea will be looking to secure their first trophy of the Thomas Tuchel era, City will be looking to lay their hands on the most treasured prize in European club football for the first time in their history.
Whilst there was a sense of expectation on City’s shoulders at the start of the campaign to go all the way in Europe this season after coming so close last term, Chelsea were an outsider, especially when supporters feared the worst when being paired with Atletico Madrid in the last-16. But after getting past Atletico, Porto and then Real Madrid in the semi-finals, Chelsea’s fans have reasons to be optimistic.
Although they have lost their way in the last fortnight, losing three of their last four games, including the FA Cup final, Chelsea have experienced a dramatic transformation under Tuchel since he replaced Frank Lampard towards the end of January.
Admittedly, their form has faltered recently, and the FA Cup final defeat to Leicester City will have hurt, but to be in with a chance of ending the season as Champions League winners is an achievement every Blues supporter in the world would have accepted back in September.
Whilst Tuchel’s impact may have come as a surprise to come, it will not have come as too big a shock to City boss Pep Guardiola, who has already been beaten twice since the German landed the Chelsea job, getting the better of him in both the FA Cup and the Premier League.
But Guardiola tipped Tuchel for greatness as far back as 2015 when he backed the former Borussia Dortmund boss and Inter Milan chief Antonio Conte to make real names for themselves in the coaching profession.
In the book ‘Pep Guardiola: The Evolution’, which details the Catalan’s time in charge of Bayern Munich, author Marti Perarnau recalls a conversation he had with Guardiola in 2015.
“I remember asking him in 2015 to name two coaches with the greatest potential,” wrote Perarnau. “Without a second’s hesitation, he said, ‘Tuchel and (Antonio) Conte’.”
It is not just Guardiola that will have been left unsurprised by Tuchel’s impact.
Two years ago, ahead of a Champions League clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp hailed Tuchel’s managerial qualities, describing him as a “fantastic, fantastic manager.”
Although a few bumps in the road have made life difficult for Tuchel in recent weeks, Klopp, on the whole, has most certainly been proven to be correct.
“A fantastic, fantastic manager. You can see really his influence, it has changed a lot their style of play, how they play, different formations and stuff like that,” Klopp said back in 2019, as quoted by Get French Football News.
“I know a lot of people who have worked with him, they all are full of respect for him. You cannot be in the Champions League only because of spending money, that is not how it is.
“You need to have on the pitch a good organisation, because all the others we are not blind.
“We do our job as well and you need to have the right tools in the right moments and Thomas has that.”
As well as getting results on the pitch, which is the be all and end all of a head coach’s job, Tuchel has also put an arm round some of the members of his squad and got everyone singing off the same hymn sheet.
For instance, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have seen their Blues careers revitalised under his stewardship and that is all down to him giving them that opportunity to stake a claim and prove their worth, highlighting his man-management skills.