Thomas Tuchel didn't notice any extra tension in the FC Bayern team hotel with a view of St. Peter's Basilica. And yet the 50-year-old would have wished for more favorable omens for his first trip to Rome as a football coach.
In short: relaxed anticipation instead of mega pressure. Since Leverkusen, Tuchel has no longer been able to think of dolce vita in the spring-like, sunny and warm Italian capital.
After the humiliation in the Bundesliga's top game, tactical gambler Tuchel urgently needs to deliver with his football stars, who failed collectively in the 3-0 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico. Another failure against Lazio Rome at the start of the knockout phase of the Champions League on Wednesday (9 p.m./DAZN) would be fatal. However, he doesn't feel any "growing pressure": "We don't have to go completely to ruins. Even if Bayern Munich loses, the sun will rise again." But at the moment there is more of a headwind, especially for him. He avoided public criticism by being “offline” “out of self-protection.”
Neuer: “You always have to get up”
In front of Tuchel, captain Manuel Neuer sat on the press conference podium and admitted that the failure in Leverkusen still made him think: "We haven't digested it if you go down like that," said the national goalkeeper, who continues to suffer from slight knee problems . "Everyone is hungry to perform better. At Bayern we have to play with a certain conviction and be adults. You have to keep getting up. We definitely want to get into the next round."
Sports director Christoph Freund made a similar statement. "We are FC Bayern Munich and we are there to achieve success. We are tickled. We will take even a dirty victory."
Munich claim and reality
After a confident group stage with five wins and one draw, Tuchel naturally claimed the role of favorite against Lazio after the round of 16 draw: "We definitely have the right to win the duel in 180 minutes."
Aspiration and reality: This is exactly where a gap opens up at FC Bayern 2024. After eleven months of working together, the only thing that is constant about Tuchel-Bayern is the volatility, the constant change between “outliers up and down,” as Tuchel himself said: “Personally, I am not satisfied with the level at which we are playing - playing consistently ."
Attitude, will to win, offensive and defensive performance - Bayern have to improve in all areas in Rome. Against a team that is eighth in Italy's Serie A and that is led by 33-year-old ex-Dortmunder Ciro Immobile as captain and top star.
Müller and “the flash in the eyes”
Thomas Müller branded the Bayern game as too “cerebral”. He misses the simple act of playing with the ball and the greed on the pitch, “that flash in the eyes”. Character is required, personality, leadership. Tuchel warned to “show a reaction”. Freund said of the coach: "He doesn't doubt his work. He tries to think in terms of solutions."
How does Tuchel react after he speculated against Leverkusen with a system change and questionable personnel selection? Will he rely on players with Bayern DNA in Rome? Leader Müller and driver Joshua Kimmich are candidates for this. “Thomas can always give the team a lot,” said Freund. “The last punch was missing,” criticized Tuchel in Leverkusen. No Bayern punch in a top game? What's going on there?
When Musiala had a lot of fun
Three years ago, Bayern met Lazio in the round of 16. The premiere duel - with Hansi Flick on the bench - is unforgettable for two reasons: In the middle of the corona pandemic, the 4-1 win took place with practically no spectators. And Jamal Musiala was the man of the evening back then. At the age of 17 years and 363 days, he became FC Bayern's youngest premier class goalscorer to date.
“It was a really cool game for me, I had a lot of fun,” Musiala recalled. Musiala will also be the focus when returning to the Olimpico, which is filled and therefore atmospheric this time. In Leverkusen, Munich's offensive supply chains were not working at all. “We couldn’t think of anything to move forward,” complained Kimmich.
The invisible Kane
Tuchel missed lightness and assertiveness. Above all, he puzzled "why we didn't manage to bring Harry into the game." Goal scorer Kane only had 18 touches of the ball. Musiala's solution sounds simple: "We have to trust our processes, go into one-on-one situations, look for one-twos." And he addressed the attitude: "It will be important that our energy levels are at their maximum."
The expected lineups:
Lazio Rom: Provedel - Marusic, Casale, Romagnoli, Hysaj - Cataldi - Guendouzi, Vecino - Felipe Anderson, Immobile, Pedro
Bayern Munich: Neuer - Mazraoui, Upamecano, Kim, Guerreiro - Kimmich, Goretzka - Sané, Müller, Musiala - Kane
Referee: François Letexier (France)