A UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Italian giants Juventus is a special occasion in itself, but for FC Bayern München winger Kingsley Coman, it will be a formative footballing memory.
Last summer, the France international swapped Turin for Munich, joining the Bavarians on a two-year loan deal, and Tuesday’s first leg in Europe’s premier club competition marks his first reunion with his former teammates. In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 19-year-old discusses his emotions about lining up against his parent club and Bayern’s chances of progression.
bundesliga.com: Monsieur Coman, is this round-of-16 tie with Juventus an extra special pair of games for you?
Kingsley Coman: I’m still a Juventus player, so yes, it is, absolutely. And the same goes for Arturo Vidal [who left Juve for Bayern permanently in summer 2015]. We’re both looking forward to the game and obviously we hope we can reach the next round.
bundesliga.com: Are Bayern favourites to progress?
Coman: I’d rather say it’s a 50-50 match-up. Both teams are dominating in their leagues and we’re up against a side that reached the Champions League final last year. They’ll be two very close games.
‘We’ll need to be ruthless’
bundesliga.com: What could be an important factor in getting a positive result in Italy?
Coman: Juventus have a strong defence – they hardly give you any chances. So it’ll be important for us to stay compact and be patient, and as soon as we create a chance, we need to take it, because we probably won’t get many. We’ll need to be efficient and ruthless.
bundesliga.com: How do you assess Juve’s current form?
Coman: They struggled for results at the beginning of the season, but that’s normal considering the departures of important players like Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and Carlos Tevez. They rediscovered their form in the autumn and at the moment they’re almost unstoppable in the league. They deserve to be top of the table.
bundesliga.com: Is their strike force of Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic the biggest danger for you?
Coman: I actually think their defence is their biggest strength. But they have huge potential in attack as well, and their midfield of Paul Pogba, Sami Khedira and Juan Cuadrado is also very unpredictable.
bundesliga.com: Meanwhile, Bayern have some problems of their own, especially in terms of the injuries to Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and Holger Badstuber in central defence. How will you cope in their absence?
Coman: We have to stay compact and be structured in our play. Against FC Augsburg, Joshua [Kimmich] and David [Alaba] did a very good job in defence, and against Darmstadt we were also very solid. We’ll need to help them out as much as we can, but I’m confident we can get a positive result in Turin.
bundesliga.com: Do you get the feeling that the anticipation ahead of this game is even more acute than usual?
Coman: We’re certainly looking forward to this game. It’s a great match-up and we’ll be playing in a great stadium with massively passionate fans. These are the games you play football for. But the atmosphere in our team is brilliant and we can hardly wait for the whistle to start the game.
bundesliga.com: What sticks out in your memory from the year you spent in Turin?
Coman: I really learned a lot, especially in terms of tactics. On top of that, I got to train with world stars like Tevez, Pogba and Gianluigi Buffon. But I’m happy to be at FC Bayern. The team’s attacking style suits me a lot better and I feel like I’m trusted a lot more than I was last season. I think I can exploit my potential better here.
Interview by Alexis Menuge