Leipzig boss Nagelsmann relishing facing ex-mentor Tuchel

Nagelsmann (left) congratulates his players after their win over Atletico in Lisbon on Aug 13. (AP pic)

LISBON: Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann says he is relishing facing former mentor and Paris St Germain coach Thomas Tuchel in the Champions League semifinals following his side’s stunning win over Atletico Madrid.

Leipzig, who were only founded in 2009, booked a semifinal berth at their first attempt in the knockout stages when US midfielder Tyler Adams hit an 88th-minute winner.

It sealed the Germans’ win after a Joao Felix penalty for Atletico had cancelled out Dani Olmo’s header for Leipzig early in the second half.

Leipzig now face PSG next Tuesday, also in Lisbon, for a place in the Aug 23 final.

It was PSG’s German coach Tuchel, 46, who gave Nagelsmann his first break at Augsburg 12 years ago as a scout which saw him then become a coach.

“They are a top team with a top trainer,” said the 33-year-old Nagelsmann, whose playing career was ended in 2008 by a knee injury.

“I have often played (as a coach) against him (Tuchel) but rarely won.

“That should change now. I would also be satisfied with a bad game if we win,” Nagelsmann added.

When coach of his former club Hoffenheim, Nagelsmann lost twice and drew against Tuchel, who was then in charge of Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga between 2016 and 2017.

Nagelsmann was full of praise for PSG, who came back against Atalanta on Wednesday to win after scoring two late goals.

“They are a team full of stars,” Nagelsmann added, referring to Neymar and fellow PSG forward Kylian Mbappe.

“You could see yesterday at the end what quality they have.

“Angel di Maria is coming back, Mbappe will be fit enough to play from the beginning.

“It’s clear that we need another top performance to get into the final.”

Mental strength

Nagelsmann’s Leipzig held their nerve after Felix equalised before Adams came off the bench to seal the winner after superb work in the build-up by left-back Angelino and midfielder Marcel Sabitzer.

“I was getting ready for extratime and thinking about who I would bring on, so I am happy that I didn’t have to do that,” added Nagelsmann.

“I couldn’t believe we scored that beautiful goal.

“We had trained for the situation when we went 1-0 up, but things didn’t work out exactly.

“The boys sorted things out for themselves and showed how mentally strong they are, so I am really proud of them.”

This is the first time Leipzig have made the knockout stages of the Champions League and having already beaten Tottenham in the last 16, they want to make more are history.

Their captain Yussuf Poulsen, 26, who joined in 2013-14 when Leipzig were in Germany’s third division, acknowledged the magnitude of the achievement for the eastern Germany club backed by energy drinks firm Red Bull.

“This is a story that you couldn’t have written better,” said the Denmark striker.

“It is a great day, a great moment, we have to enjoy it, then have a better game in the semifinals in five days.”

Poulsen said Nagelsmann’s meticulous preparations had been a key.

“We were just well prepared, everyone knew what to do,” he said.

“But we also had some players on the pitch who were not playing Champions League for the first time,” he added after Leipzig bowed out in the group stages in 2017-18.

“If we’d played a game like that two years ago, it might have turned out differently.”