In the second installment of this two-part exclusive interview, Bayern Munich boss Thomas Tuchel tells bundesliga.com that Bayer Leverkusen will push his side all the way in the race for the title...
How do you see the team's progress so far?
"Bayer Leverkusen are the only team in Europe who are still unbeaten... We've also had a lot of problems with injuries - most of our games we have had only four or five players on the bench, it's become normal. We've brought in guys from the youth academy who weren't on anyone's list before the season, and they played very regularly from the bench and in the starting XI. We played Leon Goretzka with a broken hand, we played Noussair Mazraoui in central defence, we played Konrad Laimer as a full-back. It became normal, and we kept the results going. In all of that, we had some top matches, as well as some phases that weren't easy for us, which isn't a problem, but there's room for improvement. There are things we can be happy with, but at Bayern you are never satisfied and you’re never finished."
What are the pressures that come with managing Bayern?
"The focus is on Bayern in this country, it's the biggest club, and it’s the club in Europe that represents the German league more than any other club. That’s the way it is, and that’s why the spotlight is on us. Look at our training ground. Everybody can watch us training and can see what we're doing, so there's stuff to write about us, and that makes little things seem big. Sometimes things seem bigger, like a draw or a defeat, but even little things can be in the press for two or three days, even if there's nothing to it. That's the environment, it is the club in Germany. It’s totally different to my surroundings in Mainz, for example."
Watch: Tuchel discusses the drama of the 2023 title
Talking about the finale to last season, what was going through your mind?
"I thought we had lost it in the last home match against RB Leipzig. Then, very quickly, Thomas Müller stepped up in the dressing room and said ‘This isn't finished’. It didn't convince me fully at the time, but I was still impressed and it made me think, at least. After that big disappointment, we picked ourselves up again, and showed our reaction during the week. We stepped up and found a way to approach this game. We scored the first goal and we heard, of course, from our fans and from the bench that things were going our way. It was a crazy match, though - we conceded a penalty for handball and suddenly we seemed to have given it away again. I was sitting on the bench, and I wondered whether this was the final act of a rollercoaster season. Luckily, we found a spark through Jamal Musiala to get it over the line. The last minutes were just pure anxiety, hoping that Borussia Dortmund wouldn't score and take it out of our hands. It was a strange feeling, a big relief, but mostly pure joy. It must have been absolutely perfect for the fans."
Watch: Musiala discusses last season's Meisterschale clincher
How is the experience from last season playing into your feelings for the away game in Leverkusen next month?
"We want to arrive in a good position to overtake them, that's why we have to do our homework. The situation is very clear, we have everything to lose, they have everything to win. All the neutrals are waiting for someone else to win the title. Last season it didn’t happen, but now the title race is on and we're in the middle of it. We always play against the perception that 'You should be in front, it should be easy for you', but it's never easy. It helps us, of course, to sharpen our minds, but I hope that it doesn’t knock us off our stride. There's no shame in being behind Leverkusen at the moment, and being the hunters is no problem. At some point in the second half of the season, we want to overtake them and stay there, but it will be a difficult task. I think they're a strong team, a unit with an excellent coach, so it'll be a race until the end."
How do you see this UEFA Champions League season? Are you satisfied with the performances in the group stage?
"I'm very satisfied with the results as they were difficult matches. Performance-wise, we can still step up and do better, as we're aware. We made it to the top of the group, and this gives us the slight advantage of playing Lazio, who were second in the group, and we also have the boost of being at home in the second leg. The bottom line is that we want to make it to the quarter-final, which is the minimum goal at Bayern. From there, let's be honest, you then need a good draw and a bit of luck. For me, anyone who is in the quarter-final can win this tournament. This is the first target, and from there we'll take it step by step. But of course the dream is alive."
Watch: Bayern chasing Leverkusen in gripping title race
You used to have a different image to other coaches outside of football: doing yoga, reading books, etc...
"I very rarely talk about it, but it’s just what makes me happy. I find my happy place when I do sports with friends, I'm happy when I spend time with my family, I’m happy when I spend time with my children and do stuff like swimming in a lake. I like to do the stuff that you’d also do as a child, as it keeps me young. I’m into meditation, but I’m very bad at yoga, I’m very stiff and it makes me angry all the time when I do it, so I try other stuff. When I keep my routine going I feel better, but I’m not the most disciplined person in doing it, so it’s a bit on and off."
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