Thomas Tuchel is a fresh face in the Premier League but Jose Mourinho is already working his mind games on the German, claiming “it’s not difficult” to manage Chelsea as the Portuguese prepares his Spurs team to meet the Blues.
Tuchel faces the biggest test to date of his young Chelsea tenure when he takes them to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday night in a crucial meeting as the two London rivals continue their campaigns for a top-four spot.
Tuchel – who was appointed Blues boss last week after the sacking of Frank Lampard – has never met Mourinho on the touchline before, perhaps sparing the former PSG manager some of the Portuguese veteran’s famous psychological broadsides.
The former Chelsea boss made up for that on Wednesday at his pre-match press conference, suggesting that Tuchel should inevitably bring success to Stamford Bridge due to the quality of players at his disposal.
“I don’t think it’s very difficult to coach at Chelsea because I was champion three times,” Mourinho said, listing off the Premier League title triumphs he enjoyed across two spells at the club.
“Carlo Ancelotti was champion, Antonio Conte was champion.
“It cannot be very, very difficult because we won titles there. Chelsea always have great players and great squads and good coaches are happy to work with these clubs and with players who give you a very good opportunity to be successful and win titles.
“In my case, I was there in two different periods and I was champion in two different periods.”
Tuchel, 47, already has titles to his name, winning the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) with Borussia Dortmund in 2017, before back-to-back Ligue 1 titles at PSG as well as Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue triumphs.
That trophy cabinet cannot yet compare, however, to Mourinho’s haul of two Champions League titles, a Europa League crown and a host of domestic league and cup success in Portugal, England, Spain and Italy.
Mourinho, who was sacked twice by Chelsea, in 2007 and 2015, suggested that top coaches need to crack the biggest and best leagues – with no greater challenge than in England.
“What I think makes a coach elite is to be successful in the top leagues, to be successful in leagues in a different dimension,” said the 58-year-old.
“I am not talking about Thomas, the French league is a very competitive league – apart from PSG because they play in a different league.
“The biggest challenge for a coach is to work in the best leagues. Our league is the most challenging one.
“He was coming from a league that you cannot compare with the Premier League but he is used to working with players of high caliber, used to important players. He will fit well in a club like Chelsea.”
Tuchel was complimentary of Mourinho in his own press conference on Wednesday, hailing him as one of the best in the game at his craft.
“We don’t have to leave any doubts; he is one of the best managers in the world. Now he has created a squad in Tottenham that is, like always, very, very competitive, very, very strong,” the German said.
“Like I said, very competitive and that would be the challenge. Is it a clash of cultures? I don’t know. I think that Jose is a winner and I want to implement the same in my teams.
“We are on the highest level to win games and we will try anything.“
Tuchel has presided over a 0-0 draw against Wolves and a 2-0 win against Burnley in his first two games in charge, but will likely face a sterner test against Spurs, who stand one place above them in the Premier League table in seventh, by virtue of goal difference.
Both clubs are scrambling to keep in touch of the Champions League places, with fourth-placed Liverpool seven points clear, although having played a game more than Chelsea and two more than Spurs.
Mourinho will be without talisman Harry Kane for the clash on Thursday, but the England forward could return next weekend for the game with Manchester City. Spurs have looked toothless in their last two league games, surrendering meekly to Liverpool at home before losing to Brighton away.
Tuchel is waiting on the fitness of German playmaker Kai Havertz and defender Kurt Zouma, but otherwise has a full-strength squad and will be looking to claim a big scalp early in his Chelsea career.