Bayern's Tuchel gamble to face immediate test against Leipzig

AFP , Thursday 22 Feb 2024

Struggling Bayern Munich's shock decision to part ways with coach Thomas Tuchel at the end of the season will be put to the test in Saturday's clash with RB Leipzig.

Thomas Tuchel
Bayern Munich s German head coach Thomas Tuchel reacts during the German first division Bundesliga football match between FC Bayern Munich and Union Berlin in Munich on January 24, 2024. AFP

 

On Wednesday, Bayern announced Tuchel would leave the Bavarian capital in the summer, seemingly staking out a middle ground between firing the coach immediately or pledging to stick with him despite poor recent results.

The Bayern bosses made the call after Sunday's 3-2 loss to Bochum left them eight points behind Xabi Alonso's unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen, with 12 matches to play this season.

Bayern hopes the announcement will galvanise their star-studded squad, many of whom reportedly fell out with the coach.

Bayern have already set their sights on Alonso, who played for three seasons in Munich, as Tuchel's replacement.

The Tuchel announcement will allow Bayern to up their pursuit of the in-demand coach, continuing their tried and tested approach of strengthening themselves by weakening a direct rival.

Alonso on Thursday told reporters he had "nothing new to say" about the rumours, saying it was "not the right time for me to talk about" the future.

Whether or not they secure Alonso's signature, Bayern will hope conjecture around the coach's future will destabilise Leverkusen's push for a first-ever Bundesliga crown.

Given Leverkusen's history -- the club endured the unwanted moniker 'Neverkusen' having lost a Champions League final and finished runners-up five times in the league -- Bayern's approach has a shot at success, but the stakes are high should it backfire.

A poor result against Leipzig could kick-start a slide, rendering Tuchel a lame duck in his final months, particularly if Bayern are eliminated in the last 16 of the Champions League, where they trail Lazio 1-0 after the first match in Rome.

Many of the players publicly criticised by Tuchel, including midfielders Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Konrad Laimer, are unlikely to suddenly warm to the coach just because they know he is headed out the door.

While Borussia Dortmund are generally considered Bayern's main challengers, Leipzig have caused the champions more problems in recent seasons.

Bayern have only won four of their past 11 encounters with Leipzig and have not beaten them in the league since February 2022.

Champions League regulars since their promotion in 2016, Leipzig sit in fifth place, one point behind Dortmund, and will be desperate for points.

Leipzig forward Dani Olmo told the Bundesliga website on Thursday "it is always special. Bayern of course are the opponents that motivate us."

"For us and for me as a player it motivates me a lot, always."

One to watch: Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig)

Bayern Munich will be all too familiar with the exploits of RB Leipzig forward Dani Olmo, who scored a hat-trick in a 3-0 demolition in the Supercup in August.

Olmo spent much of the season on the sidelines with injury but has returned to help Marco Rose's side secure a top-four spot.

"I would say it was a perfect game from all of us and for me individually, to score three goals there in Munich and win a Cup trophy," Olmo said Thursday of his hat-trick.

"But of course we have to keep going. Football does not stand still and now we have another chance to play at the Allianz."

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