Paris St Germain manager Thomas Tuchel insists he has not been told his job depends on him delivering the Champions League title.
Despite a huge outlay on players, including the near-£200million world-record fee for Neymar, the French club have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals.
Tuchel is the latest man trying to achieve what Unai Emery, Laurent Blanc and Carlo Ancelotti failed to do but the German denied it was the only thing which mattered as they were expected to win Ligue 1 with ease.
“No-one has told me this, in all the talks, I have to win this otherwise I didn’t do my job right,” Tuchel said.
“If anyone had told me (that) I wouldn’t have signed the contract.
“If we judge ourselves only by the biggest goal in European football, the possibility of a big disappointment is high. Why should we do this?
“Sometimes I feel sorry for my team because I know the effort they put in. We play at home against defensive teams and we win and win and win.
“It is not because it is easy, it is because these guys show the hunger to win and win and win. It is a point of view (that Ligue 1 is easy) that does not help us within the club.”
Tuchel returns to Anfield almost 18 months after a chastening experience as Borussia Dortmund boss.
His side led 4-2 with 24 minutes to go of their Europa League quarter-final second leg only for Liverpool to score three times in a dramatic last-minute finish.
It means the PSG boss is wary of a team which is now even better than the one he faced in April 2016.
“We did handle it quite well. We were leading 2-0 and 3-1 (on the night) and then an outstanding goal from (Philippe) Coutinho changed everything,” Tuchel added.
“It was a last-second defeat, just a step from a semi-final. I was asked if it still hurts me. I have to say I am more grateful that I was part of it.
“At Anfield, you need a lot of experience and courage. You can never feel comfortable against Jurgen’s (Klopp) teams.
“You can never never have one minute where you think, ‘We have it under control’.
“Even if we have the ball it can happen that in 10 seconds they can be in front of your goal.
“We can never put our concentration down for one second, we can never feel like we have a moment of calmness and quietness here.
“I think they (the players) know that. If not, I will tell them and they will be aware of that.”
It is for that reason, and taking into account Liverpool’s run to the final last season and the five European Cups they have in their trophy cabinet, Tuchel considers his side only a Champions League challenger and not a finalist.
“It does not bring you one centimetre to a title if you talk about who is favourite and who is not,” he said.
“It does not make sense to talk about what happens in the next year, we have a very complicated group.
“Every year you start new and in sports – if you want to go far – you have to get the experience you can to do a special thing. You catch the wave and you ride it.
“You see Liverpool have won five Champions League titles so they have experienced this and we are still working against this.
“For this we are a challenger in the Champions League and not one of the favourites.
“But I am pretty confident this type of game and opponent bring the best out of us.”
Mohamed Salah-Roberto Firmino (if fit)-Sadio Mane v Kylian Mbappe-Edinson Cavani-Neymar.
These are two of Europe’s in-form sides – both boast 100-per-cent league starts – and ones that boasts a plethora of the sport’s greatest attackers.
The hosts are back in continental action for the first time since May’s 3-1 defeat in the final to Real Madrid denied them a sixth European Cup. The Ligue 1 holders can only dream of such progress, despite several years of unprecedented investment.
Here, we pick apart what to expect from this gala night in Group C at Anfield.
TALKING POINT – POTENTIAL MEETS REALITY AT ANFIELD
An intriguing glimpse into whether we are watching Champions League contenders or pretenders will be offered on Tuesday evening.
This adds electricity to a high-voltage fixture.
Buccaneering Liverpool unexpectedly stormed to last season’s showpiece. They’ve since added the likes of Brazil No1 Alisson, driving Guinea midfielder Naby Keita and the versatile Fabinho in a bold bid to ensure they do not come up short again.
The foundations provided by their bolstered defence now face a seismic test.
PSG have reset the norms expected in the transfer market to land Canarinho superstar Neymar and World Cup 2018’s golden boy Kylian Mbappe. But still, this stellar pair underwhelmed during a second-successive round-of-16 exit last term – that time to eventual champions Madrid.
Has the summer arrival of the meticulous and intense Thomas Tuchel in the dugout added necessary direction to a stellar Parisian cast? At the very least, he’ll need to avoid a repeat of his harrowing last visit to Anfield when Borussia Dortmund twice gave up commanding positions to exit the Europa League’s quarter-finals in April 2016.
An end to PSG’s four-match UCL winless run against English sides will provide validation of his vision.
Insight into his methods will be offered against Jurgen Klopp – a managerial colossus whose career path he has followed from Mainz to Dortmund and now a foreign ‘super club’.
The 51-year-old has revelled in the underdog role throughout his storied career. Liverpool’s sizable summer spend has thrust them back into the moneyed elite and added an air of expectation unfamiliar to his previous postings.
Potential is about to meet reality on Merseyside – for both outfits.
KEY BATTLE – JAMES MILNER V MARQUINHOS
Forget, for now, two of football’s grandest frontlines.
This clash will be decided in the midfield. Liverpool’s James Milner has been playing in the centre throughout much of the past decade – opposite number Marquinhos can total his experience there in a matter of weeks.
The efficacy of how this pair disrupt the passing lines forward will define this clash.
Milner was magnificent in Saturday’s resounding 2-1 victory at Wembley against Spurs. At 32-years old, he ran 12.9 kilometres and made five tackles – the most in the game.
If he can harass and harangue Neymar in the same manner as he did Harry Kane and Co., Liverpool will find themselves in a commanding position.
Tuchel’s guiding hand has been present in the retooling of usual Brazil centre-back Marquinhos for 2018/19. Pushed up alongside Adrien Rabiot in an expected 4-2-3-1 because of Marco Verratti’s suspension, his cultured defending will be required to steal the ball and distribute it with haste.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
“Winning the first game is always an advantage, but we haven’t won it yet – we have to play it and it will be really difficult.
“PSG are one of the favourites for the competition, that’s for sure. This team is built for winning the Champions League.
“It will be an interesting game, for sure. With the players they have and the manager they have, they all brought it together to go as far as possible in the Champions League and we are aware of that.”
“A game like this never happens too soon. This is a big challenge.
“It is under pressure that we see the quality of a group. We won’t be able to relax with the pressure that’s going to be put on.
“With or without the ball, it requires an extreme level of concentration.
“If you pass through the corridors of Anfield, you can feel the weight of history. In this meeting, it is up to us to write the story.”
WHAT WE THINK – LIVERPOOL 2-2 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
With such a cast of superstars, entertainment and intrigue are a given.
Liverpool’s defence is much improved, but they will struggle to keep a lid on Tuchel’s effervescent attackers. At the same time, the structure that the German tactician is beginning to put in place will come under severe stress.
Expects goals galore and the points to be shared.
Having embarked on the same journey, first with Mainz and then with Borussia Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s path finally crosses with Jurgen Klopp’s when Paris Saint-Germain face Liverpool in the group stage of the Champions League.
The Ligue 1 giants travel to Anfield as the Reds have enjoyed a stellar start to the Premier League, winning all five of their fixtures so far.
Klopp will want to keep that momentum going with a strong start to their European campaign and here’s a couple of tactics he could consider.
HENDERSON MARKING NEYMAR
Whether Tuchel chooses to field a 3-4-1-2 or 4-2-3-1 formation, both would feature Neymar in a central role in behind a front pair of Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe. Should the talented Brazilian – who was rested over the weekend – receive the ball between the lines, there’s no telling the damage he could inflict on the Liverpool defence, particularly with two devastating forward runners operating ahead of him.
Limiting his influence on the game will be key and Jordan Henderson could be the man for the job. Georginio Wijnaldum has played as the anchorman in midfield this season but the England international’s alertness in defence and strong work ethic could pay dividends in the role this time around.
SALAH AS A NO9
Roberto Firmino should be available for the encounter despite suffering an abrasion of the eye when he clashed with Jan Vertonghen over the weekend. However, should the Brazilian miss this fixture, it presents the opportunity to play Mohamed Salah as a striker.
It wouldn’t be the first time Klopp would’ve chosen to use the Egyptian in that role. Between a possible trio of Presnel Kimpembe, Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos down his side, there is a danger of him being crowded out of the game. His pace through the middle would command the attention of the centre-backs and perhaps create space for forward runners – like Naby Keita – from midfield.