Big egos ready to butt heads

Famous for their pitchside temper, Simeone and Nagelsmann also share winning mindset

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann (left) and his Atletico Madrid counterpart Diego Simeone are missing key personnel for today's game but will not let that stop their Champions League challenge.
RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann (left) and his Atletico Madrid counterpart Diego Simeone are missing key personnel for today's game but will not let that stop their Champions League challenge. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LISBON • RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann wants to keep cool in Lisbon should sparks start to fly with his "dynamite" Atletico Madrid counterpart Diego Simeone during today's Champions League quarter-final.

Both he and Atletico's Argentinian boss Simeone are notorious for passionately urging their team on from the sidelines.

But Nagelsmann wants to avoid falling "under the spell" of any heated emotions during the game in Lisbon, "and will concentrate on the (match) content, on the team".

"You're better off doing that than getting into an in-fight," the 33-year-old German added.

Leipzig, who are backed by Austrian energy drinks giants Red Bull, were founded only in 2009 and are in the knockout phase of the Champions League for the first time, having beaten last season's finalists Tottenham in the last 16.

Without the crowd masking any pitchside noise at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, Nagelsmann knows that his duel with Simeone will be even more intensely scrutinised.

"Now without spectators, you will be able to hear even more that he is always pointing things out, discussing a lot with the referee and demanding the use of cards," he said.

His Leipzig players are aware that things could get heated.

"I'm curious to see how things will work out with Julian and Diego Simeone," Leipzig defender Marcel Halstenberg said. "They are both very emotional blokes."

Nagelsmann has a lot of respect for the 50-year-old Simeone, who has repeatedly steered Atletico to European success after nearly a decade in Madrid.

Atletico, who beat holders Liverpool in the last 16, are hoping to finally prevail in the Champions League final at the third attempt after losing to Real Madrid in both 2014 and 2016.

They have also won the Europa League twice under Simeone in 2012 and 2018.

"He must have an extraordinary gift," Nagelsmann said in reference to Simeone. "I believe that 99 per cent of coaches who would always play 4-4-2 in such an aggressive fashion would be burned out after two years, but not him.

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I'm curious to see how things will work out with Julian and Diego Simeone. They are both very emotional blokes.

MARCEL HALSTENBERG, Leipzig defender, comparing the two opposing managers.

"Simeone runs around like dynamite."

Nagelsmann's biggest concern is trying to replace the firepower of Timo Werner, who netted 34 times this term, including four goals in the Champions League, before the Germany striker joined Chelsea last month.

Denmark striker Yussuf Poulsen is set to partner Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick, who is on loan from Roma, up front today.

The clash will go ahead despite Atletico defender Sime Vrsaljko and winger Angel Correa testing positive for Covid-19 over the weekend and were both isolated.

The entire squad and staff have since returned negative tests.

When football returned in June after the coronavirus-enforced break, Atletico went unbeaten in 11 games, to dispel concerns that they could miss out on La Liga's top four.

They won seven matches and drew four, one of them against Barcelona at Nou Camp, which helped Real Madrid clinch the title.

"We did well. We know we're on a really good streak but the Champions League is a different competition," said striker Diego Costa.

"I watch a lot of games from the Bundesliga when I'm at home, and they're a fantastic team.

"It will be a very tough game, so we'll have to concentrate fully to come out on top."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2020, with the headline 'Big egos ready to butt heads'. Print Edition | Subscribe