Thomas Tuchel will stick to the winning formula that has got his team this far, despite the prospect of coming up against a formidable and familiar foe
It’s the biggest game of his life, but don’t expect Thomas Tuchel to do anything different. “Stay calm, stay cool and try to prepare for it like any other game,” affirms the 46-year-old former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund coach. Having succeeded Jürgen Klopp in both those posts, he clearly likes a challenge. But his motto for nights like this? “Don’t do special stuff.” His logic? “The game is special itself, so why should we overload it with videos, with speeches, with motivation?” In short, keep calm and – he hopes – carry on winning.
My feelings are very hard to describe, from totally exhausted to totally happy. Proud that we arrived [here] and, at the same time, staying focused because the trip isn’t over. We have a final to play, which we absolutely want to win. [We’ve played] two totally different matches against very athletic, very intensive teams; both of them attacking, both of them adapting their defensive strategy to us. We were behind to Atalanta right until the end, but it was an incredible finish. We showed a lot of belief, a lot of resilience and a lot of mentality besides our quality. And, of course, it gave us a big, big boost to turn this game around in two, three minutes. We deserved it, but it’s also luck you need in a tournament like this. You could feel the relief, and the boost that this victory gave us against Leipzig. We played with more confidence, with more conviction and the same hunger – the same determination that the journey’s not yet at its end.
It’s important not to think about it too much, as it won’t have any influence on our performance. For me, the key is to try to remain calm. It’s not easy and we’re trying to prepare the way we usually prepare, the same way we prepared ahead of Atalanta or Leipzig, because we prepared very seriously and with a great sense of focus. I’ve played a few finals against this team, two of them when I was at Dortmund [the 2016 German Cup final and DFL-Super Cup, both won by Bayern]. I know things are different when you’re up against Bayern in a final, the context is different. It’s going to generate pressure and tension. In my opinion, the best thing for us is not to overdo what we normally do.
It wasn’t necessary for the Atalanta or Leipzig game and it won’t be necessary ahead of Bayern. We’ve been preparing for this game for over two years. We work every day in a certain way and we have to keep doing it this way. Now isn’t the moment for a great speech, and I don’t think a speech from myself is going to have any influence on these 90 minutes.
They’re terrifically strong and, to me, they’re the favourites because they’ve had an outstanding and very impressive Champions League journey, achieving incredible results. In every game until now, the only thing they’ve had in mind is winning the Champions League. They’ve had a run of 20 victories in a row, which means they have a high level of confidence and quality. They’re the most difficult opponent we could have faced, but the Champions League final is the highest level. We’re very strong in these kinds of games too.
Yes: we really miss them. We miss our friends and families in the stadium. When everyone’s there there’s a real spirit, and we’re really missing that. We’re missing the fans; it’s not the same playing in an empty stadium. But we’ve adapted and we know that everyone in Paris is with us and that everyone in Paris celebrated, as we did, after the semi-final. That gives us a lot of motivation, because the spirit’s there; you can feel it. We’re all in it together and everyone can rest assured that we’ll do even more to make sure we’re having a big celebration next Monday.
For me, playing intense Champions League matches is a good thing. It’s really tense, it’s tense for the supporters too, and it involves a different way of preparing for and playing matches like this. Because we have to seek decisions: we can’t look for a result in the first match and then use that result to manage the second match. It’s not like that now. Now it’s all focused on a win and, personally, I really like it. I’m convinced that many fans like it too.
We’ve done it step by step. We first prepared for the match against Saint-Étienne in the Coupe de France [final], then we prepared for the Coupe de la Ligue match against Lyon. Those two finals really helped us, as they gave us confidence but also because we were able to build our fitness in the 120 minutes against Lyon. After those results, the team became more confident. We also have to recognise that we were fortunate during the penalties [against Lyon] but we had quality in the final minutes against Atalanta. And perhaps those moments count for more than those in training.
Determination, hunger and joy.