Thomas Tuchel insists he will have no split loyalties when Chelsea take on Tottenham, revealing his fabled boyhood affection for Spurs was just back-garden bragging.
Former Borussia Dortmund and Paris St Germain boss Tuchel had previously been characterised as growing up as a Spurs fan in Germany – but now he insists that was simply to “show off” to friends.
The 47-year-old light-heartedly conceded as a youngster he did not even realise Tottenham were based in London, simply being entranced by short television clips.
“They are one of the biggest clubs in England and in Europe, for sure,” Tuchel said, speaking ahead of the teams’ meeting at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday evening.
“It’s a big challenge but don’t get confused: when I was a boy once or twice it was me pretending to be Tottenham in the garden, it was to show off more in front of my friends. Because actually I didn’t even know Tottenham were a team in London.
“It was just a fancy name and a team we could see on TV for a few minutes.
“Later of course with Jurgen Klinsmann and some German players there that led to a bigger focus.
“But there’s no doubt that I arrive (on Thursday) in blue, proud to coach in blue and proud to coach my team and we will do everything to win the game.”
Spurs are likely to be without talisman Harry Kane in Thursday’s Premier League clash due to an ankle problem, with Tuchel admitting that would boost the visitors.
“Well I would say it’s always easier if Harry Kane’s not playing, this is a given, this is for sure absolutely no secret,” Tuchel said.
“He’s for sure one of the best number nines in the world. He’s the role model on the number nine that every team and coach wishes for, in terms of work-rate, ambition, mentality, attitude, and for sure goal-scoring is simply outstanding.
“At the moment we assume he will not play, but we will prepare ourselves for all cases.
“So if he’s on the pitch we will also be prepared for that.”
Anticipating a stern test from a typically organised Jose Mourinho team, Tuchel admitted he never had the temerity to view the decorated Portuguese manager as a role model when climbing the football ladder himself.
“First of all I strongly believe that it’s Tottenham against Chelsea and not me against Jose,” Tuchel said.
“Was he a role model? Honestly, when I started my career he was so far away, like the moon from the earth, so he could not be a role model at all.
“I was happy at the academy, then I was promoted to first league football and from there I just enjoyed and focused on every day.
“He’s one of the best managers in the world, he has now created a squad at Tottenham that’s very, very competitive, very, very strong.”
Chelsea will head to Spurs with injury doubts over defender Kurt Zouma and forward Kai Havertz.
Both players were forced out of training on Wednesday with unspecified injuries, leaving Tuchel admitting both will require late fitness tests.
“We have two little issues today on the training pitch,” Tuchel said.
“Kurt Zouma and Kai Havertz went off the pitch with little issues, so they are checking now, doing images right now.
“So it’s questionable if they are in the squad for (Thursday).”