Thomas Tuchel has admitted Chelsea’s Premier League title race could be over if the Blues lose at “benchmark” club Manchester City on Saturday.
Chelsea are 10 points behind Pep Guardiola’s City ahead of the weekend’s clash at the Etihad Stadium, with the Blues’ Andreas Christensen the latest Covid-19 absentee.
Chelsea beat City 1-0 in Porto in May to win the Champions League, but Blues boss Tuchel admitted Guardiola’s men are still the best in the business in England.
City have won 11 Premier League games straight away, while second-placed Chelsea have lost just once in 15 but have also drawn six games in that stint.
Asked if a loss at City would end Chelsea’s title challenge, Tuchel replied: “Maybe, maybe, who knows. The biggest difference of the season so far for me is that they have dealt better with injuries and the Covid situation.
“Maybe it’s luck, maybe they’re doing better, whatever, but they’ve got fewer key player injuries, fewer players absent and fewer weeks missing them.
“And they didn’t suffer from Covid like we did for many weeks. So that’s a big difference. Because we had some draws during the season that were unnecessary and when you have the full squad you create a certain atmosphere that pushes everyone to the limit.
“And you have to be at the limit and at the highest level if you want to compete with Man City. They are the benchmark, they are the best team in England at the moment. We have to admit that realistically.
“We don’t think much in scenarios about what happens when; let’s play the game I’m always up for a good fight, but I’m also always very realistic.
“If you look back at our recent games when we have our squad and we are in good form, we are always ready for a good fight with Man City and always there to push them to the limit and ask some questions they do not do. I may not like to answer.
“But the situation at the moment is that they are performing very strongly, very consistently and at the absolute highest level.”
While Tuchel believes Chelsea’s Covid and injury woes have hampered the Blues’ pursuit for Premier League dominance from City, the Germany manager insisted no one at Stamford Bridge will stop their attempt to catch up.
“Right now the gap is significant; If you look at the points in the table, the consistency is remarkable,” said Tuchel.
“And we have to prove it. We have to prove to ourselves that we can get up and close it day after day. We have faith in what we do, in our players and in the mentality of our club that we can do it.
“We have a strong squad, we believe in what we do. So we’re going to be there, we’re going to be there, but the situation is very specific that we’re trying to do.
“As you know I have spoken about the reasons many times and without using this as an apology it describes the situation. It’s an explanation. We cannot look away.”