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Thomas Tuchel challenges Chelsea to stop coasting after Zenit St Petersburg draw

Thomas Tuchel has challenged Chelsea to stop fixating on the scoreboard and coasting when in the lead.

The Blues rounded off their Champions League Group H campaign with a galling 3-3 draw at Zenit St Petersburg, finishing second behind Juventus.

The Stamford Bridge side had already secured their slot in the last 16, but twice squandered control in Russia – to take their goals conceded tally to six in two matches.

A frustrated Tuchel insisted his players were still taking his messages on board, but have fallen into a bad habit of relaxing once ahead in matches.

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Claudinho celebrates his equalising strike

Chelsea will jump straight from Russia to hosting Leeds in the Premier League on Saturday, where Tuchel will demand standards rise quickly, especially in light of last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham.

“I won’t take it personally that you make a judgement here that my players are not listening to me, which I don’t find so nice but I leave it with you and your opinion,” said Tuchel.

“I think that we had a very good first 15 minutes and we stopped doing the things we did in the first 15 minutes.

“We were forgetting why we were the better team, because of the investment, the level of concentration, the level of physical investment was high enough to be the better team.

It happened to us at West Ham and it happened again today. The reaction was good again, that shows me that it’s not about what we can do, because we can do it.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel

“Once this drops, five, 10 per cent, and it does; once we start managing results and changing our behaviour from what the score is, we get punished at the moment.

“It happened to us at West Ham and it happened again today. The reaction was good again, that shows me that it’s not about what we can do, because we can do it.

“Suddenly when we concede two goals we can step up, we can show a reaction. But once we have the lead we give it away again, like also today.

“The last six minutes again we started playing balls back, we started not attacking in the same aggression, the same hunger as before and we got immediately punished, now twice.”

Timo Werner gave Chelsea an early lead
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Timo Werner gave Chelsea an early lead

Timo Werner bagged a brace and also teed up fit-again Romelu Lukaku for a tap-in, but the Blues leaked three frustrating goals on a chastening night on the road.

A host of enforced changes due to injuries and fatigue took their toll on Chelsea’s usually-rigid tactics, but Tuchel remains unsatisfied with the current state of affairs in west London.

“My analysis is very clear: our behaviour changes when we have a lead and this is something we never did and we should never do,” said Tuchel.

Romelu Lukaku tapped home to make it 2-2
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Romelu Lukaku tapped home to make it 2-2

“We do the things that we want to do on the highest level and we push ourselves and it hurts and it has to hurt.

“You have to play through pain – physical pain – and you have to raise your level of concentration and you have to overcome adversity.

“If you change your behaviour because of the score, you allow the possibility to get punished. And it’s very easy; we need a higher level of sprints, a higher level of runs, a higher level of intensity and concentration.

“It’s as easy as the basics. The basics need to be pushed onto a higher level while we are in the lead.”

Magomed Ozdoev celebrates his 94th-minute screamer
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Magomed Ozdoev celebrates his 94th-minute screamer

When is the draw for the last 16?

The Champions League last-16 draw takes place in Nyon, Switzerland on Monday, December 13.

The last-16 ties will be split across different weeks, with the first legs taking place on February 15-16 and February 22-23. The second legs are then on March 8-9 and March 15-16.

What’s next?

Chelsea host Leeds at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League (kick-off 3pm); Zenit visit Dynamo Moscow at 11am on Sunday.




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