How pleased were you with the performance, it never felt you were in danger?
Yeah it felt like this on the bench, but I was still nervous because a goal can change anything. If it’s a crazy goal a deflection or a bicycle kick it can happen any time no matter how well you defend. So I can imagine both games were not too nice to watch on the television for spectators who look for entertainment, I can totally accept that. But it’s very hard to play your best game against Porto, It’s a part of performance not to let your opponent perform, this is what they do and this is what we do also. It was a day to hang in there, to show all the effort, intensity, all the team spirit that was needed, if you don’t have the experience, if you have a young team, then it’s the time to keep the momentum and be together. I think we deserved a clean sheet again, we deserved a clean sheet at Crystal Palace as well. This was the key of course, because when you work hard, sweat a lot, use your body, you cannot be nervous any more. So we encouraged everybody to do this, and to accept that we play hard games like this almost every three days. I’m very happy, because it was a very tough fight. There was a lot of work to do where you don’t get the praise, there is nobody here to clap you for a tackle. So a lot of hard work in secret was done, and that’s why I’m very, very happy.
Pleased to see Kante get 90 minutes and update on Kovacic – is he out vs Man City?
Yeah, for sure, unfortunately yes [Kovacic]. It was very sad to see him yesterday after 20 minutes in training, to have this little muscle injury from more or less out of nothing. We played in the boxes for the second day after training [at Cobham] just to have a little sweat and he felt his hamstring. So I think, for sure, for the game against City he is out, it is a big loss. I was very sad for him because we don’t have so many experienced players that have played Champions League many times. If you see him when the anthem is playing and he stands there, you see him relaxed and at the same time he is a hard fight, everybody is happy to have him around. So we also did it for him today but in this situation, it was clear that we use N’Golo [Kante]. We took the risk because we know that maybe this was the moment. Maybe it was not a risk but the situation and put him on the field and hope he had the energy for 90 minutes. N’Golo is incredible, he is like one and a half or two players. Everybody who sees him for the first time loves him, all my family love him when they watch our games now. It’s so nice to have him. He wins so many balls, he gives everybody confidence and at the same time, like I said, we also did it for Kova. We were not sure if N’Golo would start today if we had everybody available but also, it was perfect. Now it is time to recover.
This a big achievement and do you have anything to fear going forward?
It is a very big achievement. You see when Chelsea was last in the semi final. We are not used to being there. Once you are there, you play for the final. This is clear. We take every minute to learn and grow. You cannot improve without these experiences so we are doing it now during the process, while we are playing it. Yes, it is nice being on the sideline because you see all the effort. These games against Porto may not be the best to watch on TV but believe me it is a tough, tough side to play against. It is very physical, they hassle for every ball, they never let you turn or think for two seconds for other solutions. They put pressure on you, they are emotional so it is a lot to deal with and we went through. I am super happy, we will enjoy this evening. We’re in the competition and in the semi-final it is anyone’s competition. In the semi final, you need players fit, momentum, luck in the games. When you look on the scoresheet last week, you saw two players who scored their first goals in the competition. When you look at Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Benzema or Salah score, it is their 50th or 100th goal or something. We arrived with a very young team. We want a young team to turn it around. What a young team can do it run, fight and hang in there. It is an adventure for them. It is a big step to be here.
Not pretty but how much confidence does the character show going forward in the next few weeks?
It does not stop. But it is nice to rely on solidarity and rely on discipline and rely on coverage and rely on hard work. What we did today, it was the task to overcome a very difficult team in a very difficult moment – the quarter final. Playing every three days. A team that is a proud team. A team that is used to having a lot of titles. They deserve to be here. In the Champions League sometimes you need to overcome. There is no shame in it. Nothing to excuse. Just moments to learn to accept. Now we have made this experience together. Now we share a nice evening together with the whole group. They will feel deserved. It is well deserved how much input they gave and we are very happy to be in the last four. When we need to turn it around we cannot rely on the biggest experience, but we can rely on a hard-working young group and hopefully we will stay adventurous and brave enough to accept a big challenge, it will be a big one coming.
Can you elaborate on Kovacic’s injury and also, there seemed to be an argument on the pitch at full time?
It was just a little argument with me and the coach and everybody was following me suddenly. I thought it was between me and the coach, but obviously it was not so. But no harm done there. It was very sad yesterday in training because Kova had a little muscle injury in his hamstring after 20 minutes. It was sad because he is such an important player and such a positive player with a lot of experience. It was clear we lose him for the starting line-up. It was pretty clear, we go the risk with NG because it was not a risk for re-injury it was just a question can we push him for 90 minutes or maybe 90 minutes plus 30 extra time from the start or was it more important that he finish the game and plays maybe one half, the second half or 30 minutes. So there was no choice left. But NG did a fantastic job like always so we did it for Kova. With NG on the field it is always a pleasure. He works. He has a work-rate that is absolutely outstanding. He gives everybody a good feeling and a lot of encouragement. So I am happy for him, now it is time to recover good because we play Saturday again in the semi final. So we need good recovery. Hopefully we catch some good sleep, we fly home tomorrow and then we will prepare for the next game.
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