Christian Pulisic won’t have a chance to start the game against Manchester City after helping Chelsea reach the UEFA Champions League final: manager Thomas Tuchel kept him out of the starting line-up. The 22-year-old American will instead come off the bench.
Had he started, Pulisic would have been the first American player to make it to a UEFA Champions League final, considered the biggest club football stage in the world.
The US national team star was one of the main reasons Chelsea reached the final, scoring a goal and an assist in the home and away semi-final against Real Madrid. He started the first game of this series and came off the bench for the second.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel explained his decision to leave Pulisic aside:
“Difficult choice to leave him out, but very strong on the bench,” said Tuchel. “I have to choose from 23 [players] a starting eleven, but we need 15 or 16 [players] to complete this game hopefully in a positive way. Hope we start strong and end stronger. “
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Why isn’t Pulisic starting the Champions League final?
Pulisic has been in and out of the starting lineup under Tuchel since the German manager took over from Frank Lampard at the end of January. In 25 competitive matches, Tuchel, who has known Pulisic well from his years together at German club Borussia Dortmund, has chosen to launch Pulisic in 13 of them. He came off the bench in the other 12.
But Pulisic was not entirely happy with the situation. After the return leg against Real Madrid, against which he came off the bench, Pulisic made no secret of his dissatisfaction.
“Very frustrated,” he said. “Um, yeah. There’s not much else to say. I wanted to play from the start, like I always do. I had to keep proving myself, over and over again. But, like I always reach out to God, and he gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me, really. “
MORE: Pulisic’s case to start Champions League final
As one of the most expensive and star-studded teams in the world, Chelsea clearly have plenty of attacking talent on their roster. All of them bring different qualities to the game, giving Tuchel several tactical options, depending on the challenges a game may present.
The Chelsea manager spun German striker Kai Havertz (transfer fee of $ 82 million), Moroccan star Hakim Ziyech (transfer fee of $ 43 million), academy proceeds Mason Mount and Pulisic (transfer fee of $ 73 million) in attacking positions alongside center-forward Timo Werner. But when it comes to the UEFA Champions League, Pulisic has shown he is a high caliber player. The graphic below tells the story:
Ziyech and Pulisic will be the ones to start on the bench. Havertz is the one who gets the green light with Tuchel likely promoting his chemistry with fellow German Timo Werner.
While Pulisic has had to overcome insignificant injuries along the way – and that could have been a good reason for Tuchel to manage his minutes in past games – this is obviously not a factor in the club’s last game of the season. before the summer break.
Pulisic like a spark on the bench
What’s more likely at play is that Tuchel believes Pulisic can change the game with his pace and skill, if Chelsea were to come back from behind in the game.
Pulisic is good at beating 1v1 defenders and exposing gaps in opposing defenses. If Manchester City take the lead, Tuchel will need to rely on Pulisic’s attacking ability to break through England’s most stingy defensive team.
But even if Chelsea take a lead in the game, it would be tempting for the manager to throw Pulisic with 20-30 minutes left against tired defenders. That Pulisic could have an impact on a game off the bench is part of his game that has caught the attention of observers, including Belgian national team manager Roberto Martinez:
“Christian Pulisic is one of the very few players who can be really strong as a starter or substitute,” Martinez said on a conference call ahead of the Champions League final. “In the two games against Real Madrid, in the first leg he starts and makes the difference. And in the second leg he comes in as a substitute and he has this incredible intelligence to adapt to the role. You don’t have that much. of players like that. “
Why it’s important for Pulisic to play in the Champions League final
Whether he starts or not, a Pulisic appearance in the game will be a big deal. No American has ever set foot in the UEFA Champions League final.
Pulisic is on his way to becoming the best American male player in football history. He is the most expensive American player ever, after Chelsea shelled out over $ 73 million to sign him from German club Borussia Dortmund in 2019. He was only 20 at the time.
MORE: American Football Pioneers Explain Why Pulisic To Appear In Finals Is A Big Deal
He is clearly the biggest star in American men’s football today and has racked up 36 appearances and 15 goals for the US Men’s National Team. He will be a major contributor if USMNT is to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup next year in Qatar.
Pulisic will face Manchester City substitute goalkeeper Zack Steffen and his United States national team mate. One of them will lift the trophy in Portugal: it will be the greatest club achievement of an American football player.
There is only one American to have won a UEFA Champions League medal, and it was former USA manager Jovan Kirovski, who won it playing in the group stage for Borussia Dortmund in 1997. Nine American women have already participated in UEFA. Champions League final.