Bayern’s Lazio Clash Offers Outgoing Tuchel Lifeline

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BY AFP

Bayern Munich’s home clash with Lazio in the Champions League on Tuesday offers coach Thomas Tuchel a chance to help salvage his reputation as he makes his way out of the club.

Mired in mid-table in Serie A, Lazio — who had three players sent off in Friday’s loss to Milan — are also under pressure, but take a 1-0 first-leg lead in the last 16 tie to the Allianz Arena.

Hired two-thirds of the way through last season after Bayern surprisingly fired Julian Nagelsmann, Tuchel is on his way out, having struggled to keep Bayern on track for the Bundesliga title with Leverkusen comfortably in pole position.

Two early German Cup exits, and elimination at the hands of eventual champions Manchester City in Europe last season means that Tuchel’s only trophy was last year’s Bundesliga, somewhat gifted on goal difference by Borussia Dortmund’s final-day collapse.

Nagelsmann lost just 10 of 84 games in charge of Bayern.

With largely the same squad, plus England captain Harry Kane and South Korea defender Kim Min-jae, Tuchel has already lost 11 of his 45 matches.

– ‘Buzz in the air’ –

Friday’s 2-2 draw with Freiburg and Leverkusen’s 2-0 win at Cologne on Sunday mean Bayern are 10 points behind with 10 league games remaining in the Bundesliga title chase.

Despite Tuchel’s side winning just one of their past five games, the Bayern hierarchy promised the coach would see out the season.

German media however have claimed the only thing keeping Tuchel in a job is the lack of a reasonable interim alternative.

All of Bayern’s assistant coaches came to the club with Tuchel. The club is reluctant to appoint a permanent coach, with sights firmly set on a move for Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso in the summer.

After Friday’s game, Tuchel said his side was not lacking “desire” but rather “discipline”, saying “we played completely without structure” while criticising his team’s “body language”.

“We did things we’ve never trained, that we’ve never even spoken about. From the beginning, we played like it was the 85th minute and we were a goal down.”

Inconsistency is not a new theme at Bayern, with the club leaning heavily on Kane’s 27 league goals to bail them out.

Bayern veteran Thomas Mueller, a two-time Champions League winner, said Sunday: “The excitement is palpable for everyone, whether fans or players. There’s a buzz in the air.”

Tuchel on the other hand seemed unsure of what to expect ahead of Lazio’s visit.

“The ups and downs have been with us for a long time,” he said.

– ‘Pressure from within’ –

After the decision to part ways was made in late February, Tuchel said both he and the club could move forward with “clarity”.

The coach also said he could be more “ruthless” in his decision-making, perhaps best exemplified by moving Joshua Kimmich to his unfavoured right-back position.

Another problem for Tuchel is depth. Dayot Upamecano, who saw red when giving away the decisive penalty in the first leg against Lazio, will miss the match.

Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, Sacha Boey and Noussair Mazraoui also look set to miss out, while Leroy Sane is under an injury cloud having not played against Freiburg.

Tuchel conceded the situation was “weird” but denied he was under pressure to prove something to the club in his final months.

“The pressure comes from within, within myself,” he said.

“I put the most pressure on myself and I like to live with that pressure, which is a privilege because you’re working at the highest level.

“That’s what I expect from myself — to handle that pressure.”

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