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Harry Kane
Harry Kane

Bayern boss Tuchel hoping to echo Chelsea run before Arsenal clash

Arsenal are in the midst of a tense Premier League title race

MUNICH: Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel will seek to echo the spirit of 2021’s Champions League-winning run with Chelsea in Wednesday’s home quarter-final second leg against Arsenal. Bayern put aside their domestic struggles in the first leg, returning from London with a 2-2 draw, another Harry Kane goal against his old foes and the knowledge victory in Germany will see them through to the final four.

With Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen already in possession of the Bundesliga trophy, the Champions League is now the only focus for Tuchel’s Bayern. Being able to concentrate only on Europe is a luxury few of the teams remaining in the Champions League have, particularly Arsenal who are in the midst of a tense Premier League title race.

Tuchel was free to make his focus on Europe obvious, making seven changes in Saturday’s hard-fought 2-0 home win over struggling Cologne. Left out of the squad completely for the Cologne clash, captain Manuel Neuer and winger Leroy Sane were allowed to watch Saturday’s win from the comfort of the grandstand.

Bayern will however face Arsenal missing several first teamers. Canada defender Alphonso Davies is suspended, while forwards Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman are injured. Tuchel would not be drawn on who would replace Davies on Wednesday, telling reporters after Saturday’s win over Cologne he may “do something crazy”.

Asked if one of Bayern’s centre-backs could make the shift out to left-back, Tuchel said with a smile “no, we want to win.” Bayern veteran Thomas Mueller, who has two Champions League titles, wrote on social media the focus was all on Europe. “Now, it’s all about Europe. These nights, this pressure, this special atmosphere in the Allianz Arena: I’m looking forward to it.”

Chelsea 2.0

While not quite at the level of self-described “overthinker” Pep Guardiola, Tuchel is known for his flexibility and a penchant for being tactically reactive, a perfect fit for knockout football. Despite winning leagues in France and Germany, Tuchel’s teams have shone brightest in cup competitions.

He announced himself as Dortmund coach by winning the 2017 German Cup, dispatching Bayern 3-2 in Munich in the semi-final on the way to the first major title of his career. His only Champions League season with Dortmund was impressive but failed due to circumstances beyond his control.

Tuchel’s Dortmund were unbeaten in the group phase, finishing ahead of eventual champions Real Madrid. Their campaign came undone in a quarter final against Monaco with the club forced to play a day after a bomb blast shattered the windows of the team’s bus.

Dortmund’s decision to play led to a rift between Tuchel and Dortmund which never healed and he was fired just days after his side lifted the German Cup. At Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea he made the finals of both the major and minor domestic cup competitions.

In Europe, Tuchel took PSG to the Champions League final, where they lost 1-0 to Bayern. The next season as Chelsea boss, he took over a side in disarray in January after the firing of club legend Frank Lampard.

He steadied the ship and took Chelsea to the Champions League final, where they beat Guardiola’s heavily favored Manchester City to win the title for the second time. While plenty stands in the way of another Champions League triumph, including one more potential meeting with Guardiola’s City on the way, Tuchel could be just four games away from Wembley glory. – AFP

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