Thomas Tuchel believes that the battle for the two remaining places in the Premier League’s top four and Champions League football next year will go right to the wire.
The Chelsea manager’s team established a three-point lead over rivals West Ham with five games left in the campaign by beating the Hammers 1-0 on Saturday at the London Stadium.
Earlier in the day Liverpool were denied a win at the death by Newcastle with Chelsea now four points clear of the Reds, while third-placed Leicester are one point above Tuchel and co. but have played one game less.
Speaking after Timo Werner’s strike gave the Blues a vital victory in east London, Tuchel said: “Since last week it has been in our own hands, because we arrived in fourth place.
“Now we have taken advantage now of this direct duel, which is significant – and it is always a huge win.
“But it is not over yet. There are too many teams involved, the competition is too hard, our fixtures are too hard to be relaxed now, or to think about anything else than that we have to continue to perform on this level.
“But we are used to producing performances, we are used to hard work, we are used to having a huge team effort.”
But, Tuchel revealed Chelsea will be without former Real midfielder Mateo Kovacic against Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday night.
The German added: “Hopefully Mateo can come back against Fulham next week. Tomorrow will be too early. It is unfortunate, because he is a crucial player.
“If you arrive in the semi final, you arrive at the highest level in European football – and you play against Real Madrid. It cannot be harder – it’s the most experienced team in this competition.
“But we arrive with full confidence and inner belief – we have got big results. I hope we can play adventurous, aggressive and intensive football. We will fight them hard.”
“The referees are the people who can change things. But whoever they are taking their orders from is not very good.”
The Hammers’ second successive defeat left them three points outside the top four with five games to play – but Moyes hopes to get some of his injured players fit for a crucial run in.
The Scot said: “It’s still all there for us. We want to keep going. We want to be in the mix for European football.
“We’ve got so close. Hopefully we can start to get some players back in the next four or five games. It is going to go right to the end.
“We’ve been in there and earned it because of the way we’ve played and the results we’ve had. The players are going to get driven on.”