RB Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann plans to check Paris Saint-Germain’s counter-attacking game, spearheaded by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, and pull off another upset in today’s Champions League semi-final.
Nagelsmann, 33, is the youngest coach to reach the last four of the Champions League and will attempt to repeat Leipzig’s surprise quarter-final win over Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid when they face PSG in Lisbon.
“We are a team that can take our chances against the top teams in Europe. We saw that against Atletico,” Nagelsmann said Monday. “The players really have the will to win, we are hungry and I can see that in their faces. We were great against Atletico, now we have a chance against Paris.
“We have to avoid losing the ball, because PSG are very strong on the counter-attack, but we’ll try to take the game by the scruff of the neck.”
PSG reached the last four with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Atalanta when Neymar and Mbappe set up late goals for Marquinhos and Eric Choupo-Moting.
Nagelsmann says the only way to stop PSG’s fearsome attack is to defend as a unit.
“You can’t foresee what Neymar and Mbappe could do, they’re top players. We need to defend them as a team. It’ll be difficult, but we need to make them work and put them under pressure. We want to play our own game and focus on ourselves as opposed to thinking about Paris.”
Nagelsmann will try to outfox opposite number Thomas Tuchel for a place in Sunday’s final, 12 years after the pair worked together in Augsburg’s reserves. When a persistent knee injury forced Nagelsmann to retire barely out of his teens, Tuchel offered the chance to scout for him.
Tuchel, 46, is well aware of his protege’s qualities as a coach. “We know Leipzig change their tactics from game to game and can also adapt mid-match,” said Tuchel. It’s going to be a tough game to prepare for. We just need to focus on ourselves, our tactics, structure and qualities, and look to impose our game.”