Interview

Nagelsmann lifts Leipzig

“We are here to achieve the maximum,” says Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann as his team prepare to meet Atlético de Madrid in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League

There was a break due to Covid-19 and you also had a second short break after the end of the Bundesliga season. How did you keep your players focused and motivated?

First of all, it was key that the players had a break after the Bundesliga so that they could recover. I didn’t have to instantly concentrate on getting the players motivated and focused but rather on their recovery, especially since the three-week break was shorter than it would be normally, without the pandemic. After that, I didn’t have the feeling that they needed a lot of external motivation since the Champions League tournament already generates plenty of motivation on its own. We’ve never reached the quarter-finals before, so it is an extraordinary challenge for us and for the guys. That’s why they’ve been very motivated since the beginning and they’ve been ready to give it their all.

Can you be at 100% after such a break?

I don’t think so. It depends on how you get going in a game. We’ve had a friendly but that’s never at the same level as playing for points. Our first competitive fixture will be against Atlético on Thursday and it’ll be interesting to see how the players will get going in the game. The first few minutes will be decisive: whether we’ll be able to make our move or whether our opponents will be able to, or not. I think that will determine much of how the game will play out over the 90 minutes because, like Atlético, I don’t think it’ll be possible to play at 100%. I do think, however, that you can get close to reaching 100% during the game if things work out for you. 

You have to plan without Timo Werner now. How does that change your approach and can your team compensate for this? 

We do have the offensive quality to replace him, even though we won’t be able to do this one to one. Of course, the structure and style will change because Timo has extraordinary capabilities and embodies a certain style of playing. That’s why we won’t be able to replace him one to one but that won’t be necessary either. It’s not like we’ll continue to play with just ten players, we’ll still be able to play with 11 players. We can bring in another player, so we will be able to replace his position well. It won’t completely change our style of football, it’ll continue to be similar to what we’ve done before despite Timo being a missing component. 

Leipzig celebrate Marcel Sabitzer’s second goal in the round of 16 home win against Tottenham


What kind of game are you expecting against Atlético?

Atlético play with a deep line with a lot of committed players at the back. Their key strength is that their forwards defend well; even if they play it over you, they keep defending so you don’t really have time to open up the game because you are constantly under pressure from the opposing team. That is the first point. They also counter-attack well in numbers with a lot of players in the opposing half. You need to be prepared and patient until they lose the ball. And when we lose the ball, it’s important to counter-press because otherwise, the counter-attacks will follow. At the same time, they are prone to counter-attacks if you can counter quickly, because they leave some areas uncovered as a result of their attacking power. It leaves you with chances, which is why we can be dangerous from within our own half. 

Are you, as the coach, looking forward to the tactical battle with Diego Simeone?

Well, of course, it’s exciting. It’s always a big challenge for a young coach to face such a personality on the sidelines. However, as the coach, you shouldn’t give yourself too much importance because it remains a game for the players, and the players are decisive in tipping the balance on the pitch. They have to use the tools you give them in training. As a coach, you are providing a service to the players by advising them, but the players are key.

Is the cup format an advantage for your team and will it change your approach in comparison to when you are playing two games, first-leg and second-leg?

Yes, it does change a bit, because it’s less tactical; you don’t need to think about the away goals rule and so forth. It is sometimes a tactical battle: deciding how much risk you will take, considering the away goals rule and the second-leg – all of that doesn't apply here. Therefore, it is more or less open to who will win the game, whoever wins will reach the next round and get to the semi-finals. It is a different approach, but I think it’s self-explanatory because there is no home and away match. I think we will find it easier. Atlético are, of course, more experienced with regard to the Champions League and knockout football, so I think this format will actually favour us more than if we were playing two matches.

You are in the quarter-finals. Are you already dreaming about a bit more than that?

Well yes, of course, I believe it is important to dream. But you must stay realistic, that is important too. But I do think every coach, player and staff member should go to bed and be able to dream about winning. We are here to achieve the maximum. The chance to do so, as the past has shown us, is not always huge. But the chances of winning aren’t any more likely for Manchester City, Bayern or any other team. Normally, starting from today on, you would need another five wins or five successful outcomes. So it is, generally speaking, easier to win than in past years.

You can get your copy of the 72-page Official Portugal 2020 Tournament Guide now on our sister site european-nights.com. While you are there, why not pre-order your official 2020 UEFA Champions League final programme? Both the Guide and Programme are available in print or digital.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

There was a break due to Covid-19 and you also had a second short break after the end of the Bundesliga season. How did you keep your players focused and motivated?

First of all, it was key that the players had a break after the Bundesliga so that they could recover. I didn’t have to instantly concentrate on getting the players motivated and focused but rather on their recovery, especially since the three-week break was shorter than it would be normally, without the pandemic. After that, I didn’t have the feeling that they needed a lot of external motivation since the Champions League tournament already generates plenty of motivation on its own. We’ve never reached the quarter-finals before, so it is an extraordinary challenge for us and for the guys. That’s why they’ve been very motivated since the beginning and they’ve been ready to give it their all.

Can you be at 100% after such a break?

I don’t think so. It depends on how you get going in a game. We’ve had a friendly but that’s never at the same level as playing for points. Our first competitive fixture will be against Atlético on Thursday and it’ll be interesting to see how the players will get going in the game. The first few minutes will be decisive: whether we’ll be able to make our move or whether our opponents will be able to, or not. I think that will determine much of how the game will play out over the 90 minutes because, like Atlético, I don’t think it’ll be possible to play at 100%. I do think, however, that you can get close to reaching 100% during the game if things work out for you. 

You have to plan without Timo Werner now. How does that change your approach and can your team compensate for this? 

We do have the offensive quality to replace him, even though we won’t be able to do this one to one. Of course, the structure and style will change because Timo has extraordinary capabilities and embodies a certain style of playing. That’s why we won’t be able to replace him one to one but that won’t be necessary either. It’s not like we’ll continue to play with just ten players, we’ll still be able to play with 11 players. We can bring in another player, so we will be able to replace his position well. It won’t completely change our style of football, it’ll continue to be similar to what we’ve done before despite Timo being a missing component. 

Leipzig celebrate Marcel Sabitzer’s second goal in the round of 16 home win against Tottenham


What kind of game are you expecting against Atlético?

Atlético play with a deep line with a lot of committed players at the back. Their key strength is that their forwards defend well; even if they play it over you, they keep defending so you don’t really have time to open up the game because you are constantly under pressure from the opposing team. That is the first point. They also counter-attack well in numbers with a lot of players in the opposing half. You need to be prepared and patient until they lose the ball. And when we lose the ball, it’s important to counter-press because otherwise, the counter-attacks will follow. At the same time, they are prone to counter-attacks if you can counter quickly, because they leave some areas uncovered as a result of their attacking power. It leaves you with chances, which is why we can be dangerous from within our own half. 

Are you, as the coach, looking forward to the tactical battle with Diego Simeone?

Well, of course, it’s exciting. It’s always a big challenge for a young coach to face such a personality on the sidelines. However, as the coach, you shouldn’t give yourself too much importance because it remains a game for the players, and the players are decisive in tipping the balance on the pitch. They have to use the tools you give them in training. As a coach, you are providing a service to the players by advising them, but the players are key.

Is the cup format an advantage for your team and will it change your approach in comparison to when you are playing two games, first-leg and second-leg?

Yes, it does change a bit, because it’s less tactical; you don’t need to think about the away goals rule and so forth. It is sometimes a tactical battle: deciding how much risk you will take, considering the away goals rule and the second-leg – all of that doesn't apply here. Therefore, it is more or less open to who will win the game, whoever wins will reach the next round and get to the semi-finals. It is a different approach, but I think it’s self-explanatory because there is no home and away match. I think we will find it easier. Atlético are, of course, more experienced with regard to the Champions League and knockout football, so I think this format will actually favour us more than if we were playing two matches.

You are in the quarter-finals. Are you already dreaming about a bit more than that?

Well yes, of course, I believe it is important to dream. But you must stay realistic, that is important too. But I do think every coach, player and staff member should go to bed and be able to dream about winning. We are here to achieve the maximum. The chance to do so, as the past has shown us, is not always huge. But the chances of winning aren’t any more likely for Manchester City, Bayern or any other team. Normally, starting from today on, you would need another five wins or five successful outcomes. So it is, generally speaking, easier to win than in past years.

You can get your copy of the 72-page Official Portugal 2020 Tournament Guide now on our sister site european-nights.com. While you are there, why not pre-order your official 2020 UEFA Champions League final programme? Both the Guide and Programme are available in print or digital.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

There was a break due to Covid-19 and you also had a second short break after the end of the Bundesliga season. How did you keep your players focused and motivated?

First of all, it was key that the players had a break after the Bundesliga so that they could recover. I didn’t have to instantly concentrate on getting the players motivated and focused but rather on their recovery, especially since the three-week break was shorter than it would be normally, without the pandemic. After that, I didn’t have the feeling that they needed a lot of external motivation since the Champions League tournament already generates plenty of motivation on its own. We’ve never reached the quarter-finals before, so it is an extraordinary challenge for us and for the guys. That’s why they’ve been very motivated since the beginning and they’ve been ready to give it their all.

Can you be at 100% after such a break?

I don’t think so. It depends on how you get going in a game. We’ve had a friendly but that’s never at the same level as playing for points. Our first competitive fixture will be against Atlético on Thursday and it’ll be interesting to see how the players will get going in the game. The first few minutes will be decisive: whether we’ll be able to make our move or whether our opponents will be able to, or not. I think that will determine much of how the game will play out over the 90 minutes because, like Atlético, I don’t think it’ll be possible to play at 100%. I do think, however, that you can get close to reaching 100% during the game if things work out for you. 

You have to plan without Timo Werner now. How does that change your approach and can your team compensate for this? 

We do have the offensive quality to replace him, even though we won’t be able to do this one to one. Of course, the structure and style will change because Timo has extraordinary capabilities and embodies a certain style of playing. That’s why we won’t be able to replace him one to one but that won’t be necessary either. It’s not like we’ll continue to play with just ten players, we’ll still be able to play with 11 players. We can bring in another player, so we will be able to replace his position well. It won’t completely change our style of football, it’ll continue to be similar to what we’ve done before despite Timo being a missing component. 

Leipzig celebrate Marcel Sabitzer’s second goal in the round of 16 home win against Tottenham


What kind of game are you expecting against Atlético?

Atlético play with a deep line with a lot of committed players at the back. Their key strength is that their forwards defend well; even if they play it over you, they keep defending so you don’t really have time to open up the game because you are constantly under pressure from the opposing team. That is the first point. They also counter-attack well in numbers with a lot of players in the opposing half. You need to be prepared and patient until they lose the ball. And when we lose the ball, it’s important to counter-press because otherwise, the counter-attacks will follow. At the same time, they are prone to counter-attacks if you can counter quickly, because they leave some areas uncovered as a result of their attacking power. It leaves you with chances, which is why we can be dangerous from within our own half. 

Are you, as the coach, looking forward to the tactical battle with Diego Simeone?

Well, of course, it’s exciting. It’s always a big challenge for a young coach to face such a personality on the sidelines. However, as the coach, you shouldn’t give yourself too much importance because it remains a game for the players, and the players are decisive in tipping the balance on the pitch. They have to use the tools you give them in training. As a coach, you are providing a service to the players by advising them, but the players are key.

Is the cup format an advantage for your team and will it change your approach in comparison to when you are playing two games, first-leg and second-leg?

Yes, it does change a bit, because it’s less tactical; you don’t need to think about the away goals rule and so forth. It is sometimes a tactical battle: deciding how much risk you will take, considering the away goals rule and the second-leg – all of that doesn't apply here. Therefore, it is more or less open to who will win the game, whoever wins will reach the next round and get to the semi-finals. It is a different approach, but I think it’s self-explanatory because there is no home and away match. I think we will find it easier. Atlético are, of course, more experienced with regard to the Champions League and knockout football, so I think this format will actually favour us more than if we were playing two matches.

You are in the quarter-finals. Are you already dreaming about a bit more than that?

Well yes, of course, I believe it is important to dream. But you must stay realistic, that is important too. But I do think every coach, player and staff member should go to bed and be able to dream about winning. We are here to achieve the maximum. The chance to do so, as the past has shown us, is not always huge. But the chances of winning aren’t any more likely for Manchester City, Bayern or any other team. Normally, starting from today on, you would need another five wins or five successful outcomes. So it is, generally speaking, easier to win than in past years.

You can get your copy of the 72-page Official Portugal 2020 Tournament Guide now on our sister site european-nights.com. While you are there, why not pre-order your official 2020 UEFA Champions League final programme? Both the Guide and Programme are available in print or digital.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Interview

Nagelsmann lifts Leipzig

“We are here to achieve the maximum,” says Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann as his team prepare to meet Atlético de Madrid in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League

There was a break due to Covid-19 and you also had a second short break after the end of the Bundesliga season. How did you keep your players focused and motivated?

First of all, it was key that the players had a break after the Bundesliga so that they could recover. I didn’t have to instantly concentrate on getting the players motivated and focused but rather on their recovery, especially since the three-week break was shorter than it would be normally, without the pandemic. After that, I didn’t have the feeling that they needed a lot of external motivation since the Champions League tournament already generates plenty of motivation on its own. We’ve never reached the quarter-finals before, so it is an extraordinary challenge for us and for the guys. That’s why they’ve been very motivated since the beginning and they’ve been ready to give it their all.

Can you be at 100% after such a break?

I don’t think so. It depends on how you get going in a game. We’ve had a friendly but that’s never at the same level as playing for points. Our first competitive fixture will be against Atlético on Thursday and it’ll be interesting to see how the players will get going in the game. The first few minutes will be decisive: whether we’ll be able to make our move or whether our opponents will be able to, or not. I think that will determine much of how the game will play out over the 90 minutes because, like Atlético, I don’t think it’ll be possible to play at 100%. I do think, however, that you can get close to reaching 100% during the game if things work out for you. 

You have to plan without Timo Werner now. How does that change your approach and can your team compensate for this? 

We do have the offensive quality to replace him, even though we won’t be able to do this one to one. Of course, the structure and style will change because Timo has extraordinary capabilities and embodies a certain style of playing. That’s why we won’t be able to replace him one to one but that won’t be necessary either. It’s not like we’ll continue to play with just ten players, we’ll still be able to play with 11 players. We can bring in another player, so we will be able to replace his position well. It won’t completely change our style of football, it’ll continue to be similar to what we’ve done before despite Timo being a missing component. 

Leipzig celebrate Marcel Sabitzer’s second goal in the round of 16 home win against Tottenham


What kind of game are you expecting against Atlético?

Atlético play with a deep line with a lot of committed players at the back. Their key strength is that their forwards defend well; even if they play it over you, they keep defending so you don’t really have time to open up the game because you are constantly under pressure from the opposing team. That is the first point. They also counter-attack well in numbers with a lot of players in the opposing half. You need to be prepared and patient until they lose the ball. And when we lose the ball, it’s important to counter-press because otherwise, the counter-attacks will follow. At the same time, they are prone to counter-attacks if you can counter quickly, because they leave some areas uncovered as a result of their attacking power. It leaves you with chances, which is why we can be dangerous from within our own half. 

Are you, as the coach, looking forward to the tactical battle with Diego Simeone?

Well, of course, it’s exciting. It’s always a big challenge for a young coach to face such a personality on the sidelines. However, as the coach, you shouldn’t give yourself too much importance because it remains a game for the players, and the players are decisive in tipping the balance on the pitch. They have to use the tools you give them in training. As a coach, you are providing a service to the players by advising them, but the players are key.

Is the cup format an advantage for your team and will it change your approach in comparison to when you are playing two games, first-leg and second-leg?

Yes, it does change a bit, because it’s less tactical; you don’t need to think about the away goals rule and so forth. It is sometimes a tactical battle: deciding how much risk you will take, considering the away goals rule and the second-leg – all of that doesn't apply here. Therefore, it is more or less open to who will win the game, whoever wins will reach the next round and get to the semi-finals. It is a different approach, but I think it’s self-explanatory because there is no home and away match. I think we will find it easier. Atlético are, of course, more experienced with regard to the Champions League and knockout football, so I think this format will actually favour us more than if we were playing two matches.

You are in the quarter-finals. Are you already dreaming about a bit more than that?

Well yes, of course, I believe it is important to dream. But you must stay realistic, that is important too. But I do think every coach, player and staff member should go to bed and be able to dream about winning. We are here to achieve the maximum. The chance to do so, as the past has shown us, is not always huge. But the chances of winning aren’t any more likely for Manchester City, Bayern or any other team. Normally, starting from today on, you would need another five wins or five successful outcomes. So it is, generally speaking, easier to win than in past years.

You can get your copy of the 72-page Official Portugal 2020 Tournament Guide now on our sister site european-nights.com. While you are there, why not pre-order your official 2020 UEFA Champions League final programme? Both the Guide and Programme are available in print or digital.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

There was a break due to Covid-19 and you also had a second short break after the end of the Bundesliga season. How did you keep your players focused and motivated?

First of all, it was key that the players had a break after the Bundesliga so that they could recover. I didn’t have to instantly concentrate on getting the players motivated and focused but rather on their recovery, especially since the three-week break was shorter than it would be normally, without the pandemic. After that, I didn’t have the feeling that they needed a lot of external motivation since the Champions League tournament already generates plenty of motivation on its own. We’ve never reached the quarter-finals before, so it is an extraordinary challenge for us and for the guys. That’s why they’ve been very motivated since the beginning and they’ve been ready to give it their all.

Can you be at 100% after such a break?

I don’t think so. It depends on how you get going in a game. We’ve had a friendly but that’s never at the same level as playing for points. Our first competitive fixture will be against Atlético on Thursday and it’ll be interesting to see how the players will get going in the game. The first few minutes will be decisive: whether we’ll be able to make our move or whether our opponents will be able to, or not. I think that will determine much of how the game will play out over the 90 minutes because, like Atlético, I don’t think it’ll be possible to play at 100%. I do think, however, that you can get close to reaching 100% during the game if things work out for you. 

You have to plan without Timo Werner now. How does that change your approach and can your team compensate for this? 

We do have the offensive quality to replace him, even though we won’t be able to do this one to one. Of course, the structure and style will change because Timo has extraordinary capabilities and embodies a certain style of playing. That’s why we won’t be able to replace him one to one but that won’t be necessary either. It’s not like we’ll continue to play with just ten players, we’ll still be able to play with 11 players. We can bring in another player, so we will be able to replace his position well. It won’t completely change our style of football, it’ll continue to be similar to what we’ve done before despite Timo being a missing component. 

Leipzig celebrate Marcel Sabitzer’s second goal in the round of 16 home win against Tottenham


What kind of game are you expecting against Atlético?

Atlético play with a deep line with a lot of committed players at the back. Their key strength is that their forwards defend well; even if they play it over you, they keep defending so you don’t really have time to open up the game because you are constantly under pressure from the opposing team. That is the first point. They also counter-attack well in numbers with a lot of players in the opposing half. You need to be prepared and patient until they lose the ball. And when we lose the ball, it’s important to counter-press because otherwise, the counter-attacks will follow. At the same time, they are prone to counter-attacks if you can counter quickly, because they leave some areas uncovered as a result of their attacking power. It leaves you with chances, which is why we can be dangerous from within our own half. 

Are you, as the coach, looking forward to the tactical battle with Diego Simeone?

Well, of course, it’s exciting. It’s always a big challenge for a young coach to face such a personality on the sidelines. However, as the coach, you shouldn’t give yourself too much importance because it remains a game for the players, and the players are decisive in tipping the balance on the pitch. They have to use the tools you give them in training. As a coach, you are providing a service to the players by advising them, but the players are key.

Is the cup format an advantage for your team and will it change your approach in comparison to when you are playing two games, first-leg and second-leg?

Yes, it does change a bit, because it’s less tactical; you don’t need to think about the away goals rule and so forth. It is sometimes a tactical battle: deciding how much risk you will take, considering the away goals rule and the second-leg – all of that doesn't apply here. Therefore, it is more or less open to who will win the game, whoever wins will reach the next round and get to the semi-finals. It is a different approach, but I think it’s self-explanatory because there is no home and away match. I think we will find it easier. Atlético are, of course, more experienced with regard to the Champions League and knockout football, so I think this format will actually favour us more than if we were playing two matches.

You are in the quarter-finals. Are you already dreaming about a bit more than that?

Well yes, of course, I believe it is important to dream. But you must stay realistic, that is important too. But I do think every coach, player and staff member should go to bed and be able to dream about winning. We are here to achieve the maximum. The chance to do so, as the past has shown us, is not always huge. But the chances of winning aren’t any more likely for Manchester City, Bayern or any other team. Normally, starting from today on, you would need another five wins or five successful outcomes. So it is, generally speaking, easier to win than in past years.

You can get your copy of the 72-page Official Portugal 2020 Tournament Guide now on our sister site european-nights.com. While you are there, why not pre-order your official 2020 UEFA Champions League final programme? Both the Guide and Programme are available in print or digital.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

There was a break due to Covid-19 and you also had a second short break after the end of the Bundesliga season. How did you keep your players focused and motivated?

First of all, it was key that the players had a break after the Bundesliga so that they could recover. I didn’t have to instantly concentrate on getting the players motivated and focused but rather on their recovery, especially since the three-week break was shorter than it would be normally, without the pandemic. After that, I didn’t have the feeling that they needed a lot of external motivation since the Champions League tournament already generates plenty of motivation on its own. We’ve never reached the quarter-finals before, so it is an extraordinary challenge for us and for the guys. That’s why they’ve been very motivated since the beginning and they’ve been ready to give it their all.

Can you be at 100% after such a break?

I don’t think so. It depends on how you get going in a game. We’ve had a friendly but that’s never at the same level as playing for points. Our first competitive fixture will be against Atlético on Thursday and it’ll be interesting to see how the players will get going in the game. The first few minutes will be decisive: whether we’ll be able to make our move or whether our opponents will be able to, or not. I think that will determine much of how the game will play out over the 90 minutes because, like Atlético, I don’t think it’ll be possible to play at 100%. I do think, however, that you can get close to reaching 100% during the game if things work out for you. 

You have to plan without Timo Werner now. How does that change your approach and can your team compensate for this? 

We do have the offensive quality to replace him, even though we won’t be able to do this one to one. Of course, the structure and style will change because Timo has extraordinary capabilities and embodies a certain style of playing. That’s why we won’t be able to replace him one to one but that won’t be necessary either. It’s not like we’ll continue to play with just ten players, we’ll still be able to play with 11 players. We can bring in another player, so we will be able to replace his position well. It won’t completely change our style of football, it’ll continue to be similar to what we’ve done before despite Timo being a missing component. 

Leipzig celebrate Marcel Sabitzer’s second goal in the round of 16 home win against Tottenham


What kind of game are you expecting against Atlético?

Atlético play with a deep line with a lot of committed players at the back. Their key strength is that their forwards defend well; even if they play it over you, they keep defending so you don’t really have time to open up the game because you are constantly under pressure from the opposing team. That is the first point. They also counter-attack well in numbers with a lot of players in the opposing half. You need to be prepared and patient until they lose the ball. And when we lose the ball, it’s important to counter-press because otherwise, the counter-attacks will follow. At the same time, they are prone to counter-attacks if you can counter quickly, because they leave some areas uncovered as a result of their attacking power. It leaves you with chances, which is why we can be dangerous from within our own half. 

Are you, as the coach, looking forward to the tactical battle with Diego Simeone?

Well, of course, it’s exciting. It’s always a big challenge for a young coach to face such a personality on the sidelines. However, as the coach, you shouldn’t give yourself too much importance because it remains a game for the players, and the players are decisive in tipping the balance on the pitch. They have to use the tools you give them in training. As a coach, you are providing a service to the players by advising them, but the players are key.

Is the cup format an advantage for your team and will it change your approach in comparison to when you are playing two games, first-leg and second-leg?

Yes, it does change a bit, because it’s less tactical; you don’t need to think about the away goals rule and so forth. It is sometimes a tactical battle: deciding how much risk you will take, considering the away goals rule and the second-leg – all of that doesn't apply here. Therefore, it is more or less open to who will win the game, whoever wins will reach the next round and get to the semi-finals. It is a different approach, but I think it’s self-explanatory because there is no home and away match. I think we will find it easier. Atlético are, of course, more experienced with regard to the Champions League and knockout football, so I think this format will actually favour us more than if we were playing two matches.

You are in the quarter-finals. Are you already dreaming about a bit more than that?

Well yes, of course, I believe it is important to dream. But you must stay realistic, that is important too. But I do think every coach, player and staff member should go to bed and be able to dream about winning. We are here to achieve the maximum. The chance to do so, as the past has shown us, is not always huge. But the chances of winning aren’t any more likely for Manchester City, Bayern or any other team. Normally, starting from today on, you would need another five wins or five successful outcomes. So it is, generally speaking, easier to win than in past years.

You can get your copy of the 72-page Official Portugal 2020 Tournament Guide now on our sister site european-nights.com. While you are there, why not pre-order your official 2020 UEFA Champions League final programme? Both the Guide and Programme are available in print or digital.

Penalty Pedigree

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