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Trumps full their sleeves, Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel and Zinédine Zidane have all the cards in hand Tuesday and Wednesday for the semi-finals of the Champions League Manchester City-PSG and Chelsea-Real Madrid. Make way for the game, with a view of the Istanbul final!
Considered one of the greatest coaches in history, Pep Guardiola has brought his FC Barcelona, double winner of the Champions League (2009, 2011) to the sky.
But subsequently, at Bayern Munich or Manchester City (since 2016), the Catalan technician (50) no longer played in the final of the European queen event, an anomaly given his pedigree and the means at his disposal.
“His job would be unfinished if he left this country without winning the Champions League,” ex-defender Gary Neville, commentator on Sky Sport, said on Wednesday.
It remains to avoid Tuesday these hazardous tactical innovations that have sometimes confused his teams in the past.
“He is an incredible and intelligent coach, who always thinks about different strategies and game plans,” analyzes his PSG counterpart Mauricio Pochettino, who praises himself: “For me, he’s the best. I admire him. “
Against City, Pochettino is up against the wall. But the Argentinian technician (49) loves this kind of moment.
In 2019, he reversed several compromised situations to reach the final … lost against Liverpool (2-0). “Poche” wants his revenge and PSG, 2020 finalist, too.
Arrived in January in place of Tuchel, the former Parisian defender (2001-2003) brought his grinta to PSG.
The successes against Barça (in the 8th) and Bayern (in the quarterfinals) have shown his influence. “Physically, he asks us for more than 90 minutes,” summed up midfielder Ander Herrera to Spanish newspaper Marca.
The setback against the “Sky Blues” has revived criticism on the mental considered fragile of PSG. “But a weak team in the head does not eliminate Barça and Bayern”, pointed out Pochettino.
The Argentine is playing very big in May. He is aiming for three titles (C1, Championship, Cup) but “Pocket”, whose record was empty before his arrival in the capital, could as well lose everything …
He is the one of the four who started the latest on a bench. But Zinédine Zidane (48 years old) has built a unique track record, with three consecutive championships in the Champions League on the bench of Real (2016-2018).
“He is someone who has the DNA of football in him,” remarked Gian Piero Gasperini, his Atalanta counterpart, defeated in the eighth this season.
In a very irregular season, “Zizou” was able to straighten the bar of Real, winning all its major meetings despite a workforce decimated by injuries.
“Given the difficulties we had, getting to where we are … It’s not a miracle, it’s work, nothing but work”, he explained, while he is still in the running to be champion of Spain, as in 2017 and 2020.
In London, on the Chelsea field (go: 1-1), Zidane finds his favorite competition, in a situation that he masters. Objective: to conquer the “Decimocuarta”, the 14th C1 in the history of Real …
Evicted in December, finalist in May? Thomas Tuchel, sacked by PSG at Christmas, relaunched brilliantly in Chelsea: he is a semi-finalist of the C1, fourth in the Premier League and qualified for the final of the FA Cup.
This rewards the hard work of this gaming obsessive, who has accumulated trophies in Paris.
“He managed to create a very solid group. He is a young coach, he has ideas, a very good character with us,” summed up Parisian midfielder Marco Verratti last year.
In Chelsea, his requirements hit the mark: the crumbly team of the Frank Lampard era has become a wall that is difficult to cross.
“All he wants is to win and he shows it in a very emotional way”, summed up defender Andreas Christensen on Danish TV TV3 Sport.
Here is now Tuchel (47 years) very close to a second consecutive final in C1 which would have the air of snub addressed to Paris SG, a club where he deplored the lack of “recognition” of the decision makers.
Not the kind of tongue-in-cheek, the German for example split Friday with a small criticism of Ligue 1, deeming “brutal” the difference in intensity with the Premier League. Before a possible reunion with PSG in Istanbul?