RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain will both be looking to reach the Champions League final for the first time when they lock horns in the semi-finals on Tuesday night.
PSG’s 2-1 win over Atalanta ensured their spot in the final four, while Leipzig overcame Atletico Madrid 24-hours later to book their place in the semi-finals.
But as well as two sides looking to make history, the clash is also set against a fascinating subplot involving two of Germany’s brightest coaches.
That’s because it was PSG’s Thomas Tuchel who handed Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann the chance to move into coaching when his promising career as a central defender was ended prematurely by injury.
Nagelsmann has revealed that, due to a succession of knee injuries while playing for Augsburg, he was ready to give up on his dream of a playing career and leave the game behind forever.
However, then manager Tuchel, more than aware of Nagelsmann’s intelligence and eye for a player, asked him to undertake some scouting and analysis of upcoming opponents.
Now Nagelsmann is seen as one of the top coaches in the game as he leads RB Leipzig side to their first-ever Champions League semi-final.
They’ve won eight of their last 15 Champions League games – beating Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 in the last-16, before overcoming Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals.
Domestically, Leipzig only lost four of their 34 Bundesliga games during the 2019/20 campaign, which saw them finish third behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and a win on Tuesday would see them face Bayern or Lyon on August 23.
Talking of his big break into football management, Julian Nagglesmann told a press conference on Monday: “The decision was should I annul the contract or try to find something else?
“I got to the chance to scout to analyse the opposition. Thomas liked what I did actually and it was one of the first steps on the path to becoming a head coach.
“I could never imagine it would lead to a Champions League semi-final and playing against Thomas Tuchel,”
PSG are in the semi-finals of the European Cup for just the second time having previously reached this stage in 1995 before going out to Italian giants AC Milan on aggregate and while Tuchel’s side have dominated domestically, they’ve failed to perform on the biggest stage until now.
They’ve struggled to make it past the quarter-final stage of the Champions League in recent years, while they were dumped out in the last-16 stage of last season’s competition by Manchester United, losing on away goals following a 3-1 home defeat.
And it looked like they would be exiting the competition early again in the previous round when they trailed Atalanta going into injury time before late goals from Marquinhos and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting turned the tie on its head.
The French side have a number of injury worries ahead of the one-legged semi-final tie with goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who had to be replaced against Atalanta because of a right-leg muscle injury, listed as doubtful.
Veteran defender Thiago Silva is expected to play after tests showed only a low-grade tear in his right hamstring.
Having come off the bench for the last 30 minutes against Atalanta last week to set up the winning goal striker Kylian Mbappe could also start with Thomas Tuchel telling a news conference that he’d suffered no reaction to his injured ankle.
“He played 30 minutes against Atalanta and had no problems with his ankle,” Tuchel said. “Since then he has had six days to recover, he will train and if there is the possibility for him to start, we will see if can play the 90 minutes.”
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