Football

Julian Nagelsmann must outdo his ex-coach Thomas Tuchel to reach final

Leipzig's Nagelsmann, 33, takes on PSG's Tuchel after beating Mourinho, Simeone

Having already outwitted Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone in the Champions League, RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann now faces Paris Saint-Germain and Thomas Tuchel, who helped spark his coaching career 12 years ago, in their semi-final tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

Nagelsmann, 33, is the youngest coach to reach the last four of the Champions League, underlining his reputation as one of Germany's brightest tacticians in Leipzig's first appearance in the competition's knockout phase.

SEMI-FINAL
RB LEIPZIG PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

He got the better of Simeone's Atletico Madrid in a 2-1 victory last week, claiming another famous scalp following the disposal of Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur, who were beaten home and away in the last 16.

Next up are PSG and fellow German Tuchel, 46, under whom Nagelsmann took his first steps into coaching for Augsburg's reserves in 2008 after a persistent knee injury forced him to retire aged just 20.

"Of course, I was his player, but that was many years ago. I'm more into the day-to-day business now, just like him," said Nagelsmann, a decent centre-back in his youth.

As coach of his ex-club Hoffenheim, Nagelsmann lost twice and drew against Tuchel, then in charge of Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga in 2016 and 2017.

"I have often played (as a coach) against him (Tuchel), but rarely won. That should change now," he added.

"It's clear the quality they (PSG) have - Angel di Maria will be back and (Kylian) Mbappe will be fit enough to start. We will need a top performance to reach the final."

Under Nagelsmann, Hoffenheim managed two top-four league finishes, earning a debut Champions League campaign in 2018/19 but making a group-stage exit.

NOT CLOSE

Success with Hoffenheim attracted the Red Bull-backed RB Leipzig, whom Nagelsmann joined before the start of this season. They finished third in the Bundesliga.

More than a decade after their time in Augsburg's reserves, Tuchel and Nagelsmann clash for a place in the Champions League final.

The pair have "never been extremely close", revealed Nagelsmann.

"He wasn't my mentor, even if many refer to him as one.

"Our relationship was too pragmatic for that, but I am grateful for him giving me the idea to become a coach."

Nagelsmann insisted that it is "not about duels against Mourinho, Simeone or now against Tuchel". "It's a team sport, and the team (Leipzig) have played outstandingly well."

He believes PSG's quarter-final win over Atalanta lifted "a heavy burden" off Tuchel, who was under pressure to make the last four.

"I'm happy for him."

Tuchel confirmed yesterday that Mbappe, who was instrumental in their win over Atalanta, will be ready to start.

But goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who came off injured in the quarter-final, looks set to be deputised by Sergio Rico. - AFP

Football