Euro test for Tuchel

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 23 Feb 2021

Thomas Tuchel knew from his first day in charge at Chelsea the hire-and-fire culture that managers face when working under owner Roman Abramovich.

"What does it change?" Tuchel responded when asked in his first press conference if he was concerned at being handed just an 18-month contract.

"If they gave me 4 1/2 years and they are not happy, they will sack me anyway."

Despite seeing the fate of Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte, who were all sacked after winning Premier League titles at Stamford Bridge, and club legend Frank Lampard, who was dismissed last month, Tuchel has embraced the challenge he now faces.

In stark contrast to the Chelsea model, Atletico Madrid's rise over the past decade has been built around one talismanic leader in Diego Simeone. Since Simeone took over a sleeping giant in 2011, Chelsea have had nine permanent managers.

The two sides meet for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tomorrow (HK time) in Bucharest on the back of contrasting seasons so far.

Despite splashing out 220 million (HK$2.39 billion) on new players in a deflated transfer market due to the economic impact of coronavirus, Chelsea find themselves fifth in the English Premier League. And that was only after Chelsea went on a seven-match unbeaten run since Tuchel took over from Lampard.

Atletico's form has dipped in recent weeks, but they still enjoy a three-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Since losing to Atletico in the semi-finals of the 2013-14 season, Chelsea have not won a knockout Champions League tie.

They missed out twice in Champions League finals to local rivals Real - in extra-time in 2014 and on penalties two years later. But the stability brought about by Simeone has allowed Atletico to establish themselves as consistent European contenders.

On top of two runs to the final, Atletico have reached a semi-final, two quarter-finals and won the Europa League in the two seasons they did not make the Champions League knockout stages under Simeone.

Meanwhile, holders Bayern Munich travel to Italy for the first leg against Lazio tomorrow.

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