After eleven years of Munich championships in a row, will there be a turning point in German football? Leverkusen seems capable of this. The big game could also be decided on the sidelines.
During the verbal top game foreplay with opponent Xabi Alonso, Thomas Tuchel exuded Munich’s aggressive spirit with shining eyes. In his eulogy for the unbeaten league croissant Bayer Leverkusen and its creator Alonso, the Bayern coach was the first press conference speaker to make a clear announcement about the test of strength in the Bundesliga that Football Germany is eagerly awaiting.
Tuchel demands “a statement performance”
“Saturday, 6.30 p.m., pants down and cards on the table. We want a statement performance,” said Tuchel, remembering the series champions’ statement win since 2013 in the 4-0 win in the Liga Clásico against Borussia Dortmund.
“30 teams tried, 30 teams didn’t make it,” said Tuchel about Bayer’s unbeaten streak in the current season: “Leverkusen are having an outstanding season. I still believe that they are playing more to their limit than we are. We have “There’s still more room for improvement,” said Tuchel, adding: “It’s the moment to take the next step.”
Tuchel doesn’t believe in a preliminary decision in the title fight, but everyone could read the table: “If we lose, there will be a gap.” It would then be five points behind. If Bayern win, there would be a change at the top.
Alonso wants to seize the opportunity to mark a turning point in German football. His verbal counterattack two hours after Tuchel’s remarks was: “It’s a big game, emotional, with great quality. So far we’ve had a great season – and yet we’re only two points ahead. Bayern are champions. They have the winners. DNA, but we are ready!”
New one wobbles, risk with Kimmich and Upamecano
Of course, what matters most is the protagonists on the pitch. On pace setter Granit Xhaka, defense chief Jonathan Tah or difference player Florian Wirtz at Bayer. Alonso ruled out a risky deployment of the recently injured world champion Exequiel Palacios.
Goal scorer Harry Kane, returnee Joshua Kimmich and ball wizard Jamal Musiala are the focus of Bayern. And Tuchel faces extremely tricky personnel decisions.
The use of national goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is shaky due to knee problems. “It’s Manu, we’ll give him time until 5 p.m. on Saturday,” Tuchel announced. The captain will try anything. “We like highlight games like this,” was Neuer’s taunting message to Bayer.
Tuchel also has to consider whether he should call on Kimmich (shoulder) and Dayot Upamecano (torn hamstring), who are coming back from injuries. “You don’t need to expect any signals from Josh. He comes into training with one arm and says: It’s possible,” said Tuchel.
Dinner is served. “If you want to be champion at the end of the season, you have to perform well in games like this,” said 24-time goalscorer Kane.
Tuchel particularly encouraged Musiala to compete as a playmaker with Wirtz, who is also 20 years old. “I really want Jamal to put his stamp on the game and play in exactly the same way so that in the end he is Man of the Match and not Florian Wirtz.”
The handwriting of the trainers
The game is also decided on the sidelines. Bayer against Bayern, that’s Alonso (42) versus Tuchel (50). The older one praises the younger one. “Xabi’s handwriting is 100 percent recognizable,” said Tuchel. Even as a footballer, Alonso “played in such a way that you didn’t need a lot of imagination to imagine that he could also be a top coach.” Playing style, squad, winning gene – Alonso made “Vizekusen” capable of winning the title. Three trophies – championship, cup and Europa League – are still there.
“This team has heart, this team has soul – and they always try until the end,” enthused the still young coach-strategist Alonso, emotionally, after his team’s third last-minute win in 2024 in the thrilling 3-2 win in the Cup quarter-finals against VfB Stuttgart.
“Mia san mia” – the patented Bavaria motto has recently been successfully lived out in Leverkusen. And exemplified by Alonso, the Munich champion player from 2015 to 2017. “I’m enjoying this moment as a coach,” he said.
Tuchel is also a coach with dedication. But someone who offends, whose signature at Bayern only shines in doses even after eleven months. Tuchel’s height is therefore greater in the BayArena. Liverpool FC, Real Madrid – Many club doors seem to be open to Alonso in the future, including those in Munich, where he played as a professional for three years.
And the smart Spaniard, who was world champion, European champion and Champions League winner as a player, can win against Bayern as a coach. The 2-1 win in Leverkusen on March 19, 2023 cost Julian Nagelsmann his coaching job in Munich for a few days. Tuchel took over.
On Saturday (6.30 p.m./Sky), Nagelsmann will sit in the stands at the BayArena as national coach and, as a “neutral” observer, expects “a game at eye level”. His tip: “It will be very, very exciting.” And of course Nagelsmann will follow closely what Tuchel does.
He knows that this is a groundbreaking week for the club, for the players – and also for him: “We need the maximum.” In performance, in results. Four days after Leverkusen, the first knockout game in the Champions League is against Lazio Rome.
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.