Thomas Tuchel has hit out at Uefa’s Champions League reforms on the eve of Chelsea’s semi-final first leg against Real Madrid, claiming that they avoided scrutiny because of anger over the European Super League.
Uefa’s changes to the format were approved last Monday and will see the teams in the competition rise from 32 to 36 from 2024, with the group stage replaced by a single league stage. The “Swiss system” means the minimum number of games will increase from six to 10 and the prospect of squeezing in more fixtures has infuriated Tuchel, who also argued that Chelsea and Real Madrid deserve to be in the last four of the Champions League despite their role in the ESL.
“I’m not sure if I like it because I can only see more games at the start of it, more games in a schedule that we have,” Chelsea’s manager said. “It’s very hard for me to be excited at all. All these discussions about Super League made us forget that we have a new format of Champions League very soon. Did they ask any coach about this? I don’t think so. They didn’t ask me. Did they ask any player about it? I don’t think so.
“We have so many new formats with the Nations League, the world championship for clubs coming soon. There’s so much new stuff, so many more games and more teams in the European Championship in the summer. More, more, more games. Not more quality, just more games. They push you to play more games and at the same time we have three substitutes in the Premier League and domestic competitions. I’m not happy about these competitions, not at all. But I was not involved.”
The reforms were passed a day after 12 clubs, including Chelsea and Madrid, caused anger by announcing plans to form a breakaway league. Uefa reacted furiously and has not ruled out sanctions against the “dirty dozen”. However, Tuchel insisted Chelsea and Madrid did not deserve to be kicked out of the competition before Tuesday’s first leg of their semi-final at Valdebebas.
“We deserve to be in the semi-final, like Real Madrid deserve to be in the semi-final,” Tuchel said. “We don’t deserve it because of political decisions or because of influence or because of size or because of nice shirts or because of our logo. We deserve it because we came a long way. I had the luck to be part of it since the knockout phase … If problems exist on a sports political level then it has to be solved on this level and not during a competition which is not affected.”
Tuchel played down fears in Spain that Madrid could be treated unfairly by the Dutch referee, Danny Makkelie, because of Uefa’s fury with them. Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, has been one of the driving forces behind the ESL and has not apologised for his role in the project.
“I trust the refereeing 100% and in Uefa and the competition,” Tuchel said. “I trust 100% in every referee Uefa sends. At this level we need the best referee because it is very difficult. I trust 100% that the referee will try to whistle the best match possible. I cannot imagine there is any advantage or disadvantage because of political discussion. I don’t want to continue about it because it does not exist in my mind.”
Chelsea, who travel without Mateo Kovacic, are in their first Champions League semi-final for seven years and Tuchel urged his side to be bold against the 13-times champions. “We want to be adventurous,” he said. “Maybe there is a lack of experience in semi-finals but we can compensate with hunger and enthusiasm.”