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Friday, July 19, 2024

Neutral fans want Leverkusen to win title – Bayern boss Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel has accepted Bayern Munich will be playing against every single fan who wants their Bundesliga dominance to end when they travel to league-leaders Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. (12:30 p.m. ET, LIVE on ESPN+)

Bayern are two points behind Leverkusen on the table and Tuchel said his players will feel like the opponents of men’s tennis great Roger Federer at the BayArena.

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He said any neutral will want the Bundesliga front-runners to extend the gap at the top of the league and help snap Bayern’s run of 11 titles in a row.

Despite this, Tuchel is full of confidence that his team can end Leverkusen’s remarkable 30-match unbeaten run across all competitions.

“Thirty teams tried to beat them, none managed to do that. We’ll see tomorrow,” Tuchel said.

“This streak is of course extraordinary, but we only have two points less.

“That’s why we don’t have to hide. It’s early days in the season but feels like it’s an extraordinary game where we have to put our cards on the table. It’s a great opportunity for us. We’re travelling to Leverkusen to win.

“We’re playing against a lot of ‘neutral’ fans who want Leverkusen to win the title. But we’re playing for our expectations and for the title.”

Tuchel is fully aware that fans of other teams will be hoping his side loses on Saturday.

“Yes this always exists — it happens in tennis when you play against Roger Federer — you are always playing against his aura, and the neutral fans because of his elegance and apparent ease. All this makes it more challenging for Rafa Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic. It’s the same with us, which makes it even more difficult.

“We have a great fanbase, you have support on the road with loud fans and that’s what you live for.

“You know neutral fans will love this attention and you can appreciate having two teams fighting for the top spot on a constant level. Stuttgart are not too far away also.

“But we as favourites having won the title for so many years have more to lose than our opponent but it makes us winners and we have winners in the team. We cannot change the situation we’re in but we are ready.”

Bayern will be without the injured Alphonso Davies for the trip while goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness. However, Tuchel is hopeful of having both Joshua Kimmich and Dayot Upamecano available.

“You don’t need a signal from Josh [Kimmich]. He’s always ready,” Tuchel said.

“He’s extraordinary in his attitude. [Dayot Upamecano] is similar, [he] has enjoyed excellent development in his mentality. They’ve both gone through the full rehab process. If nothing extraordinary happens, they’ll be ready.”

Tuchel has also been impressed by the work his counterpart Xabi Alonso has done at Leverkusen.

“He’s a hugely important foundation. Leverkusen have been good in their squad planning. Xabi Alonso’s mark is clearly recognisable there,” Tuchel said.

“Huge praise, but we still won’t change our approach. We’ve got room for improvement in how we play.

“We’ve gotten used to things like injury-enforced absences and haven’t lost any ground.”

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