Hoffenheim boss plots City fall … as Real storm Moscow

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HOFFENHEIM coach Julian Nagelsmann is plotting to outsmart his idol Pep Guardiola when Manchester City attempt to get their Champions League campaign back on track by winning in Germany tonight.

At 31, Nagelsmann is the youngest coach in Champions League history, and admits to being a a keen student of Guardiola’s methods.

Now Nagelsmann hopes to thwart the Spanish master tactician in Hoffenheim’s first home Champions League match in the club’s history.

“I don’t know if it it’s always an advantage to know Pep Guardiola, because then you know that he is doing so much the right way or the best way,” said Nagelsmann.

“It’s not very easy to say exactly how he will set his team. He has different ways to play against different opponents. You can see a lot of similarities in his style, but also see a lot of differences.”

In Sinsheim, City will be aiming to bounce back from their shock 2-1 loss at home to Lyon in their first Group F game, while Hoffenheim drew their opener 2-2 at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Guardiola’s City beat Brighton 2-0 at home at the weekend to go top of the Premier League, but Hoffenheim suffered their third defeat in six Bundesliga games on Saturday, losing 2-1 at home to RB Leipzig, who the ambitious Nagelsmann will coach next season.

This is the first time Nagelsmann will go head-to-head with Guardiola, who coached Bayern Munich to three consecutive Bundesliga titles from 2013 to 2016 before joining City.

There are elements to Nagelsmann’s aggressive style with Hoffenheim which echo that of Guardiola, whose City team also like to press their opponents in their own half.

Neither is afraid to take risks in selection or switch tactics mid-match.

Nagelsmann became a rising star in German football when he was thrust from coaching Hoffenheim’s Under-19 team to being tasked with maintaining the senior team in the Bundesliga.

He was just 29 in February 2016 when he took charge of Hoffenheim – a Bundesliga record for a permanent head coach – with the team second from bottom.

He only gained his coaching licence a month after his appointment, but the precarious situation did not faze the self-confident Nagelsmann.

In the other group game, Luka Modric returns to the Luzhniki Stadium against CSKA Moscow tonight, the scene of Croatia’s World Cup final defeat to France, not only as FIFA’s best men’s player but the star of Real Madrid too.

For the first time in his six seasons at Madrid, Modric will line up for a Champions League tie without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was sold, or Gareth Bale, who is injured.

There will be no Kaka, Angel di Maria or James Rodriguez either, all of whom Modric has rubbed shoulders with. At 33, he has outlasted them all. – AFP

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