Chelsea's Tuchel hails Guardiola's influence ahead of FA Cup clash

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Selhurst Park, London, Britain - April 10, 2021 Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel Pool via REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

(Reuters) - Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said his Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola had shaped his own managerial approach as the two men begin a new chapter of their rivalry in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final.

Tuchel's and Guardiola's paths crossed in the Bundesliga when the German was in charge of Mainz and then Borussia Dortmund, while Spaniard Guardiola held the reins at Bayern Munich.

Before arriving in Germany, Guardiola coached Barcelona to 14 trophies, including the Champions League twice, and Tuchel said he had learnt important lessons watching the Spaniard's methods.

"He was a huge influence because when he was coach of Barcelona I was watching almost every game," Tuchel, who took charge of Chelsea in January and is looking for his first win over Guardiola, told a news conference on Friday.

"I was very impressed by the way they made success happen with the style they were playing. I learned a lot watching the game and understanding more of the game.

"So it was a big, big lesson. At this time I was a coach at the academy and then at Mainz. Almost every game was a lesson and later we had the opportunity to play against him. It was a pleasure to meet him and fight at the highest level."

City are chasing a quadruple this season and have a 20-point lead over fifth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.

Tuchel acknowledged the gulf in class between the two sides at present but said his team would hunt down City next season.

"We have to accept there is a gap between us," Tuchel said. "If you look at the fixtures in the last few years we have to accept it, but without making us feel small.

"From day one next season we will hunt them and try to close the gap. In Europe, there are two teams that are the benchmark: Manchester City and Bayern Munich."

Tuchel said midfielder N'Golo Kante was available for Saturday's clash, but Mateo Kovacic and Andreas Christensen had been ruled out.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon)

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