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Two for every position

Battle for places underway in earnest

Somewhere between Moscow and Vladivostok, travelling at 600 miles per hour and 10,000 metres above the Siberian tundra, and crossing time zones with great regularity, Jürgen Klinsmann turned 44. A birthday on board a Lufthansa jet from Munich to Tokyo was, however, no big deal, the head coach informed “You just take it as it comes,“ he smiled.

The coach is far more concerned with the most important and decisive phase of the pre-season period. Bayern play partner club Urawa Red Diamonds in their penultimate warm-up match on Thursday, after which Klinsmann has just over a week to fine-tune his team ahead of the DFB Cup first round tie away to Rot-Weiß Erfurt.

Storm warning

“We want to continue our development and learn more about where the team currently stands,” the coach said ahead of the meeting with the Asian Champions League holders. “Urawa will provide quality opposition,” Klinsmann continued, impressed by video analysis of the team lying second in the J-League. “They’ll come at us at 200 km/h, they’re well known for that. They keep the tempo high in front of their own crowd.“

Klinsmann is interested to see how his players “fight off the jetlag and rigorous training.“ The coach is aware his team could struggle for rhythm against Urawa. “The players have come back in drips and drabs, the last of them just 12 days ago, so they’re at very different degrees of fitness.“

Battle for places

The latecomers “may not be at the level where they belong” against Erfurt and in the Bundesliga opener against Hamburg, Klinsmann pointed out, “they need to catch up as quickly as possible and slot into the rhythm, but that won’t happen until after the season starts.“ Furthermore, it could still be “a couple of months“ before the players are fully able to implement Klinsmann’s desired system and philosophy.

The latecomers are also at a disadvantage when it comes to staking claims for a place in the team. “The players who’ve been with us since the start of pre-season do have an advantage,” Klinsmann confirmed, although none is entitled to sit on his laurels just yet. “The squad is packed with quality. We have two players for every position, and every position will be fought over,” Klinsmann reasoned.

Ongoing contest

That would continue to apply to the entire season, the coach commented. “It’ll be a continuous battle. The players will redefine themselves all the time, they’ll have to be looking at themselves the whole time. Football is about the here and now. You only ever focus at what’s coming up tomorrow, next week or next month. Everything that’s happened in the past is meaningless,“ summarised the man who had just turned 44.