Interview

On the front foot

Not even a broken bone in his foot can halt the forward momentum that Thomas Tuchel is bringing to Paris Saint-Germain, as his side target a semi-final place at the expense of Atalanta

INTERVIEW Graham Hunter

First of all, how are you?

So-so. I broke the fifth metatarsal in my foot and have some damaged ligaments. Rather me than another player, let’s put it like that. It’s getting better, but at the moment it’s a bit complicated. I can’t be on the training pitch among the players, pushing them, moving around and pointing out small details. I have to watch from the sidelines and my assistants have to take over. It’s not the best for me, personally, but I think we can still prepare the team in the best possible way. Maybe I’ll do a [Marcelo] Bielsa and sit on the icebox during the quarter-final.

How is your team’s fitness, given that you have only played two competitive games since March?

We’re a little bit concerned, but we have to accept it. For any coach, it’s better to have a squad that’s in match shape, in the rhythm of playing several matches in a row, to have the capacity and to really feel safe physically. We’re not that team right now, but it’s not our fault. We just have to adapt to the circumstances and do our best. On the other hand, we did the best preparation, I hope. We cannot think too much about who’s at an advantage or not. We have a lot of players who love these kinds of finals, who are used to playing in these kinds of elimination games, and so we’re relying on that. 

How does it feel for you to be leading a team into this unique Champions League mini-tournament?

For me, it’s a gift. That’s absolutely clear, because we won the two cup finals in France, which was the most important thing leading up to this. Before coming to Portugal, I told my family with a smile, “I absolutely want to make the most of this and to take on this challenge, this week and this game,” because it’s the best possible gift for me. We’re playing in a quarter-final, we’re in the last eight. We’re a very strong team together, we’ve won four titles already this season and I’m very happy to be the manager.

Keylor Navas has been a key to Paris's defensive might


You have a very talented group of players. But while many focus on your attack, you have also conceded the fewest goals of all teams in the Champions League this year. What has been the secret to your impressive defensive record?

Good question! If I know the answer to that question, I’m not going to reveal it, that’s for sure. The key might be Keylor Navas, with his experience and character. He is extremely calm; he has a lot of experience in this competition. He makes all the other players calm. The other key thing for me is that I can feel that the squad plays together. They’re together not only when they’re attacking, not only to do spectacular things, but the lads also come together to suffer together, to work together, and to stay together when they don’t have the ball. And that’s the key, because there’s a lot of quality in our squad; we have a lot of spectacular forward-minded players but we always have to find a good mix between both.

Is finding the right balance between defence and attack the biggest challenge?

It’s always difficult to find a good balance. It’s always a challenge with our team, that’s for sure.  But we have principles in our game that we want to protect. For me, it’s absolutely necessary to protect our forward, because we want him to be free in his game, when he attacks, with all the creativity and speed that he needs. We want to protect the forward and the spaces while we are attacking. If we don’t do that, we end up being wide open, we can’t defend and, in the end, we leave spaces open between the defence and the attack. That’s the key, really.

How important will your defence be against an attacking team like Atalanta?

It’ll be very important. Atalanta have a totally unique style. They like having all positions attacking; they like attacking with every player who is able to go forward. They always have forwards chasing the ball. Their number 10, [Alejandro] Gómez, is always absolutely free to move around. He always tries to play with one more player in small spaces. They like playing on both sides with their wingers, with lots of crosses and shots from far away. It’s difficult and we’ll have to keep our shape in defence to be able to hopefully not concede any goals.

Do the single-leg format, and the fact that six of the eight teams have never won this competition before, mean it’s more open this year?

Really, I hadn’t thought about that. Experience in this competition is very important. Knowing how to deal with pressure and with a first and second leg, that’s a major asset for a club with a lot of experience in this competition. Now, it’s a different competition; it’s a tournament involving only eight teams. So perhaps that makes things different, and it’s the opportunity for a club like us that’s never won the Champions League to rise up to the challenge in a very short time. Only two of the teams have won the competition before: Bayern and Barça. And they’ll be up against each other, which means only one former winner will be in the semi-finals. Does it mean one of those two teams will win? We’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen – and so will City, Atalanta and all the others.

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.

First of all, how are you?

So-so. I broke the fifth metatarsal in my foot and have some damaged ligaments. Rather me than another player, let’s put it like that. It’s getting better, but at the moment it’s a bit complicated. I can’t be on the training pitch among the players, pushing them, moving around and pointing out small details. I have to watch from the sidelines and my assistants have to take over. It’s not the best for me, personally, but I think we can still prepare the team in the best possible way. Maybe I’ll do a [Marcelo] Bielsa and sit on the icebox during the quarter-final.

How is your team’s fitness, given that you have only played two competitive games since March?

We’re a little bit concerned, but we have to accept it. For any coach, it’s better to have a squad that’s in match shape, in the rhythm of playing several matches in a row, to have the capacity and to really feel safe physically. We’re not that team right now, but it’s not our fault. We just have to adapt to the circumstances and do our best. On the other hand, we did the best preparation, I hope. We cannot think too much about who’s at an advantage or not. We have a lot of players who love these kinds of finals, who are used to playing in these kinds of elimination games, and so we’re relying on that. 

How does it feel for you to be leading a team into this unique Champions League mini-tournament?

For me, it’s a gift. That’s absolutely clear, because we won the two cup finals in France, which was the most important thing leading up to this. Before coming to Portugal, I told my family with a smile, “I absolutely want to make the most of this and to take on this challenge, this week and this game,” because it’s the best possible gift for me. We’re playing in a quarter-final, we’re in the last eight. We’re a very strong team together, we’ve won four titles already this season and I’m very happy to be the manager.

Keylor Navas has been a key to Paris's defensive might


You have a very talented group of players. But while many focus on your attack, you have also conceded the fewest goals of all teams in the Champions League this year. What has been the secret to your impressive defensive record?

Good question! If I know the answer to that question, I’m not going to reveal it, that’s for sure. The key might be Keylor Navas, with his experience and character. He is extremely calm; he has a lot of experience in this competition. He makes all the other players calm. The other key thing for me is that I can feel that the squad plays together. They’re together not only when they’re attacking, not only to do spectacular things, but the lads also come together to suffer together, to work together, and to stay together when they don’t have the ball. And that’s the key, because there’s a lot of quality in our squad; we have a lot of spectacular forward-minded players but we always have to find a good mix between both.

Is finding the right balance between defence and attack the biggest challenge?

It’s always difficult to find a good balance. It’s always a challenge with our team, that’s for sure.  But we have principles in our game that we want to protect. For me, it’s absolutely necessary to protect our forward, because we want him to be free in his game, when he attacks, with all the creativity and speed that he needs. We want to protect the forward and the spaces while we are attacking. If we don’t do that, we end up being wide open, we can’t defend and, in the end, we leave spaces open between the defence and the attack. That’s the key, really.

How important will your defence be against an attacking team like Atalanta?

It’ll be very important. Atalanta have a totally unique style. They like having all positions attacking; they like attacking with every player who is able to go forward. They always have forwards chasing the ball. Their number 10, [Alejandro] Gómez, is always absolutely free to move around. He always tries to play with one more player in small spaces. They like playing on both sides with their wingers, with lots of crosses and shots from far away. It’s difficult and we’ll have to keep our shape in defence to be able to hopefully not concede any goals.

Do the single-leg format, and the fact that six of the eight teams have never won this competition before, mean it’s more open this year?

Really, I hadn’t thought about that. Experience in this competition is very important. Knowing how to deal with pressure and with a first and second leg, that’s a major asset for a club with a lot of experience in this competition. Now, it’s a different competition; it’s a tournament involving only eight teams. So perhaps that makes things different, and it’s the opportunity for a club like us that’s never won the Champions League to rise up to the challenge in a very short time. Only two of the teams have won the competition before: Bayern and Barça. And they’ll be up against each other, which means only one former winner will be in the semi-finals. Does it mean one of those two teams will win? We’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen – and so will City, Atalanta and all the others.

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!

First of all, how are you?

So-so. I broke the fifth metatarsal in my foot and have some damaged ligaments. Rather me than another player, let’s put it like that. It’s getting better, but at the moment it’s a bit complicated. I can’t be on the training pitch among the players, pushing them, moving around and pointing out small details. I have to watch from the sidelines and my assistants have to take over. It’s not the best for me, personally, but I think we can still prepare the team in the best possible way. Maybe I’ll do a [Marcelo] Bielsa and sit on the icebox during the quarter-final.

How is your team’s fitness, given that you have only played two competitive games since March?

We’re a little bit concerned, but we have to accept it. For any coach, it’s better to have a squad that’s in match shape, in the rhythm of playing several matches in a row, to have the capacity and to really feel safe physically. We’re not that team right now, but it’s not our fault. We just have to adapt to the circumstances and do our best. On the other hand, we did the best preparation, I hope. We cannot think too much about who’s at an advantage or not. We have a lot of players who love these kinds of finals, who are used to playing in these kinds of elimination games, and so we’re relying on that. 

How does it feel for you to be leading a team into this unique Champions League mini-tournament?

For me, it’s a gift. That’s absolutely clear, because we won the two cup finals in France, which was the most important thing leading up to this. Before coming to Portugal, I told my family with a smile, “I absolutely want to make the most of this and to take on this challenge, this week and this game,” because it’s the best possible gift for me. We’re playing in a quarter-final, we’re in the last eight. We’re a very strong team together, we’ve won four titles already this season and I’m very happy to be the manager.

Keylor Navas has been a key to Paris's defensive might


You have a very talented group of players. But while many focus on your attack, you have also conceded the fewest goals of all teams in the Champions League this year. What has been the secret to your impressive defensive record?

Good question! If I know the answer to that question, I’m not going to reveal it, that’s for sure. The key might be Keylor Navas, with his experience and character. He is extremely calm; he has a lot of experience in this competition. He makes all the other players calm. The other key thing for me is that I can feel that the squad plays together. They’re together not only when they’re attacking, not only to do spectacular things, but the lads also come together to suffer together, to work together, and to stay together when they don’t have the ball. And that’s the key, because there’s a lot of quality in our squad; we have a lot of spectacular forward-minded players but we always have to find a good mix between both.

Is finding the right balance between defence and attack the biggest challenge?

It’s always difficult to find a good balance. It’s always a challenge with our team, that’s for sure.  But we have principles in our game that we want to protect. For me, it’s absolutely necessary to protect our forward, because we want him to be free in his game, when he attacks, with all the creativity and speed that he needs. We want to protect the forward and the spaces while we are attacking. If we don’t do that, we end up being wide open, we can’t defend and, in the end, we leave spaces open between the defence and the attack. That’s the key, really.

How important will your defence be against an attacking team like Atalanta?

It’ll be very important. Atalanta have a totally unique style. They like having all positions attacking; they like attacking with every player who is able to go forward. They always have forwards chasing the ball. Their number 10, [Alejandro] Gómez, is always absolutely free to move around. He always tries to play with one more player in small spaces. They like playing on both sides with their wingers, with lots of crosses and shots from far away. It’s difficult and we’ll have to keep our shape in defence to be able to hopefully not concede any goals.

Do the single-leg format, and the fact that six of the eight teams have never won this competition before, mean it’s more open this year?

Really, I hadn’t thought about that. Experience in this competition is very important. Knowing how to deal with pressure and with a first and second leg, that’s a major asset for a club with a lot of experience in this competition. Now, it’s a different competition; it’s a tournament involving only eight teams. So perhaps that makes things different, and it’s the opportunity for a club like us that’s never won the Champions League to rise up to the challenge in a very short time. Only two of the teams have won the competition before: Bayern and Barça. And they’ll be up against each other, which means only one former winner will be in the semi-finals. Does it mean one of those two teams will win? We’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen – and so will City, Atalanta and all the others.

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

On the front foot

Not even a broken bone in his foot can halt the forward momentum that Thomas Tuchel is bringing to Paris Saint-Germain, as his side target a semi-final place at the expense of Atalanta

First of all, how are you?

So-so. I broke the fifth metatarsal in my foot and have some damaged ligaments. Rather me than another player, let’s put it like that. It’s getting better, but at the moment it’s a bit complicated. I can’t be on the training pitch among the players, pushing them, moving around and pointing out small details. I have to watch from the sidelines and my assistants have to take over. It’s not the best for me, personally, but I think we can still prepare the team in the best possible way. Maybe I’ll do a [Marcelo] Bielsa and sit on the icebox during the quarter-final.

How is your team’s fitness, given that you have only played two competitive games since March?

We’re a little bit concerned, but we have to accept it. For any coach, it’s better to have a squad that’s in match shape, in the rhythm of playing several matches in a row, to have the capacity and to really feel safe physically. We’re not that team right now, but it’s not our fault. We just have to adapt to the circumstances and do our best. On the other hand, we did the best preparation, I hope. We cannot think too much about who’s at an advantage or not. We have a lot of players who love these kinds of finals, who are used to playing in these kinds of elimination games, and so we’re relying on that. 

How does it feel for you to be leading a team into this unique Champions League mini-tournament?

For me, it’s a gift. That’s absolutely clear, because we won the two cup finals in France, which was the most important thing leading up to this. Before coming to Portugal, I told my family with a smile, “I absolutely want to make the most of this and to take on this challenge, this week and this game,” because it’s the best possible gift for me. We’re playing in a quarter-final, we’re in the last eight. We’re a very strong team together, we’ve won four titles already this season and I’m very happy to be the manager.

Keylor Navas has been a key to Paris's defensive might


You have a very talented group of players. But while many focus on your attack, you have also conceded the fewest goals of all teams in the Champions League this year. What has been the secret to your impressive defensive record?

Good question! If I know the answer to that question, I’m not going to reveal it, that’s for sure. The key might be Keylor Navas, with his experience and character. He is extremely calm; he has a lot of experience in this competition. He makes all the other players calm. The other key thing for me is that I can feel that the squad plays together. They’re together not only when they’re attacking, not only to do spectacular things, but the lads also come together to suffer together, to work together, and to stay together when they don’t have the ball. And that’s the key, because there’s a lot of quality in our squad; we have a lot of spectacular forward-minded players but we always have to find a good mix between both.

Is finding the right balance between defence and attack the biggest challenge?

It’s always difficult to find a good balance. It’s always a challenge with our team, that’s for sure.  But we have principles in our game that we want to protect. For me, it’s absolutely necessary to protect our forward, because we want him to be free in his game, when he attacks, with all the creativity and speed that he needs. We want to protect the forward and the spaces while we are attacking. If we don’t do that, we end up being wide open, we can’t defend and, in the end, we leave spaces open between the defence and the attack. That’s the key, really.

How important will your defence be against an attacking team like Atalanta?

It’ll be very important. Atalanta have a totally unique style. They like having all positions attacking; they like attacking with every player who is able to go forward. They always have forwards chasing the ball. Their number 10, [Alejandro] Gómez, is always absolutely free to move around. He always tries to play with one more player in small spaces. They like playing on both sides with their wingers, with lots of crosses and shots from far away. It’s difficult and we’ll have to keep our shape in defence to be able to hopefully not concede any goals.

Do the single-leg format, and the fact that six of the eight teams have never won this competition before, mean it’s more open this year?

Really, I hadn’t thought about that. Experience in this competition is very important. Knowing how to deal with pressure and with a first and second leg, that’s a major asset for a club with a lot of experience in this competition. Now, it’s a different competition; it’s a tournament involving only eight teams. So perhaps that makes things different, and it’s the opportunity for a club like us that’s never won the Champions League to rise up to the challenge in a very short time. Only two of the teams have won the competition before: Bayern and Barça. And they’ll be up against each other, which means only one former winner will be in the semi-finals. Does it mean one of those two teams will win? We’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen – and so will City, Atalanta and all the others.

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.

First of all, how are you?

So-so. I broke the fifth metatarsal in my foot and have some damaged ligaments. Rather me than another player, let’s put it like that. It’s getting better, but at the moment it’s a bit complicated. I can’t be on the training pitch among the players, pushing them, moving around and pointing out small details. I have to watch from the sidelines and my assistants have to take over. It’s not the best for me, personally, but I think we can still prepare the team in the best possible way. Maybe I’ll do a [Marcelo] Bielsa and sit on the icebox during the quarter-final.

How is your team’s fitness, given that you have only played two competitive games since March?

We’re a little bit concerned, but we have to accept it. For any coach, it’s better to have a squad that’s in match shape, in the rhythm of playing several matches in a row, to have the capacity and to really feel safe physically. We’re not that team right now, but it’s not our fault. We just have to adapt to the circumstances and do our best. On the other hand, we did the best preparation, I hope. We cannot think too much about who’s at an advantage or not. We have a lot of players who love these kinds of finals, who are used to playing in these kinds of elimination games, and so we’re relying on that. 

How does it feel for you to be leading a team into this unique Champions League mini-tournament?

For me, it’s a gift. That’s absolutely clear, because we won the two cup finals in France, which was the most important thing leading up to this. Before coming to Portugal, I told my family with a smile, “I absolutely want to make the most of this and to take on this challenge, this week and this game,” because it’s the best possible gift for me. We’re playing in a quarter-final, we’re in the last eight. We’re a very strong team together, we’ve won four titles already this season and I’m very happy to be the manager.

Keylor Navas has been a key to Paris's defensive might


You have a very talented group of players. But while many focus on your attack, you have also conceded the fewest goals of all teams in the Champions League this year. What has been the secret to your impressive defensive record?

Good question! If I know the answer to that question, I’m not going to reveal it, that’s for sure. The key might be Keylor Navas, with his experience and character. He is extremely calm; he has a lot of experience in this competition. He makes all the other players calm. The other key thing for me is that I can feel that the squad plays together. They’re together not only when they’re attacking, not only to do spectacular things, but the lads also come together to suffer together, to work together, and to stay together when they don’t have the ball. And that’s the key, because there’s a lot of quality in our squad; we have a lot of spectacular forward-minded players but we always have to find a good mix between both.

Is finding the right balance between defence and attack the biggest challenge?

It’s always difficult to find a good balance. It’s always a challenge with our team, that’s for sure.  But we have principles in our game that we want to protect. For me, it’s absolutely necessary to protect our forward, because we want him to be free in his game, when he attacks, with all the creativity and speed that he needs. We want to protect the forward and the spaces while we are attacking. If we don’t do that, we end up being wide open, we can’t defend and, in the end, we leave spaces open between the defence and the attack. That’s the key, really.

How important will your defence be against an attacking team like Atalanta?

It’ll be very important. Atalanta have a totally unique style. They like having all positions attacking; they like attacking with every player who is able to go forward. They always have forwards chasing the ball. Their number 10, [Alejandro] Gómez, is always absolutely free to move around. He always tries to play with one more player in small spaces. They like playing on both sides with their wingers, with lots of crosses and shots from far away. It’s difficult and we’ll have to keep our shape in defence to be able to hopefully not concede any goals.

Do the single-leg format, and the fact that six of the eight teams have never won this competition before, mean it’s more open this year?

Really, I hadn’t thought about that. Experience in this competition is very important. Knowing how to deal with pressure and with a first and second leg, that’s a major asset for a club with a lot of experience in this competition. Now, it’s a different competition; it’s a tournament involving only eight teams. So perhaps that makes things different, and it’s the opportunity for a club like us that’s never won the Champions League to rise up to the challenge in a very short time. Only two of the teams have won the competition before: Bayern and Barça. And they’ll be up against each other, which means only one former winner will be in the semi-finals. Does it mean one of those two teams will win? We’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen – and so will City, Atalanta and all the others.

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!

First of all, how are you?

So-so. I broke the fifth metatarsal in my foot and have some damaged ligaments. Rather me than another player, let’s put it like that. It’s getting better, but at the moment it’s a bit complicated. I can’t be on the training pitch among the players, pushing them, moving around and pointing out small details. I have to watch from the sidelines and my assistants have to take over. It’s not the best for me, personally, but I think we can still prepare the team in the best possible way. Maybe I’ll do a [Marcelo] Bielsa and sit on the icebox during the quarter-final.

How is your team’s fitness, given that you have only played two competitive games since March?

We’re a little bit concerned, but we have to accept it. For any coach, it’s better to have a squad that’s in match shape, in the rhythm of playing several matches in a row, to have the capacity and to really feel safe physically. We’re not that team right now, but it’s not our fault. We just have to adapt to the circumstances and do our best. On the other hand, we did the best preparation, I hope. We cannot think too much about who’s at an advantage or not. We have a lot of players who love these kinds of finals, who are used to playing in these kinds of elimination games, and so we’re relying on that. 

How does it feel for you to be leading a team into this unique Champions League mini-tournament?

For me, it’s a gift. That’s absolutely clear, because we won the two cup finals in France, which was the most important thing leading up to this. Before coming to Portugal, I told my family with a smile, “I absolutely want to make the most of this and to take on this challenge, this week and this game,” because it’s the best possible gift for me. We’re playing in a quarter-final, we’re in the last eight. We’re a very strong team together, we’ve won four titles already this season and I’m very happy to be the manager.

Keylor Navas has been a key to Paris's defensive might


You have a very talented group of players. But while many focus on your attack, you have also conceded the fewest goals of all teams in the Champions League this year. What has been the secret to your impressive defensive record?

Good question! If I know the answer to that question, I’m not going to reveal it, that’s for sure. The key might be Keylor Navas, with his experience and character. He is extremely calm; he has a lot of experience in this competition. He makes all the other players calm. The other key thing for me is that I can feel that the squad plays together. They’re together not only when they’re attacking, not only to do spectacular things, but the lads also come together to suffer together, to work together, and to stay together when they don’t have the ball. And that’s the key, because there’s a lot of quality in our squad; we have a lot of spectacular forward-minded players but we always have to find a good mix between both.

Is finding the right balance between defence and attack the biggest challenge?

It’s always difficult to find a good balance. It’s always a challenge with our team, that’s for sure.  But we have principles in our game that we want to protect. For me, it’s absolutely necessary to protect our forward, because we want him to be free in his game, when he attacks, with all the creativity and speed that he needs. We want to protect the forward and the spaces while we are attacking. If we don’t do that, we end up being wide open, we can’t defend and, in the end, we leave spaces open between the defence and the attack. That’s the key, really.

How important will your defence be against an attacking team like Atalanta?

It’ll be very important. Atalanta have a totally unique style. They like having all positions attacking; they like attacking with every player who is able to go forward. They always have forwards chasing the ball. Their number 10, [Alejandro] Gómez, is always absolutely free to move around. He always tries to play with one more player in small spaces. They like playing on both sides with their wingers, with lots of crosses and shots from far away. It’s difficult and we’ll have to keep our shape in defence to be able to hopefully not concede any goals.

Do the single-leg format, and the fact that six of the eight teams have never won this competition before, mean it’s more open this year?

Really, I hadn’t thought about that. Experience in this competition is very important. Knowing how to deal with pressure and with a first and second leg, that’s a major asset for a club with a lot of experience in this competition. Now, it’s a different competition; it’s a tournament involving only eight teams. So perhaps that makes things different, and it’s the opportunity for a club like us that’s never won the Champions League to rise up to the challenge in a very short time. Only two of the teams have won the competition before: Bayern and Barça. And they’ll be up against each other, which means only one former winner will be in the semi-finals. Does it mean one of those two teams will win? We’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen – and so will City, Atalanta and all the others.

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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