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Promising run

Momentum building at Guardiola’s Bayern

The momentum in German football is with Bayern at the moment. After a settling-in period, the 2013/14 version of the team are building up a head of steam, scoring goals and winning matches with increasing assurance. FCB beat Hannover 2-0 in the league, eased past CSKA Moscow 3-0 in Europe, thrashed Schalke 4-0, and defeated Hannover again on Wednesday 4-1 in the DFB Cup, as Pep Guardiola’s side begin to piece together a good-looking run of results. “I think we can be very pleased with our recent performances,” commented captain Philipp Lahm, “we’re definitely heading in the right direction.”

That much was evident from the midweek cup demolition of top-flight rivals Hannover. “We had the game absolutely under control, and we totally deserved to win by the three-goal margin,” continued Lahm. Guardiola said he was “satisfied with mm team’s performance. We’ve won a tough match.” The head coach was particularly impressed with his side’s hunger for goals, as the Lederhosen-look shirts streamed forward right until the end. “They just wanted to keep on scoring,” Guardiola enthused.

With half an hour played, the clearly superior home team led the side lying fourth in the Bundesliga 2-0 courtesy of goals from Thomas Müller (17) and Claudio Pizarro (27). However, that was followed by “15 minutes in which we didn’t play so well. We frequently lost possession in the build-up,” noted Lahm. Müller pointed the finger at himself and his team-mates: “We shifted down a gear after going 2-0 up. Hannover were immediately right back in the game.” Didier Ya Konan’s 37th-minute strike came after the visitors had forced Manuel Neuer into three saves after the half-hour.

Rotation has no impact on fluency

The players learned their lesson from that poor spell, Müller observed: “You always have to invest a great deal if you’re to be really successful.” Bayern duly poured prodigious heart and energy into the match after half-time. Man of the Match Müller scored his second goal after 64 minutes, before sub Franck Ribéry netted 12 minutes from the end to book an “absolutely deserved” (Lahm) place in the last sixteen.

Quite apart from the convincing display, hunger for goals and creditable recovery from a brief uncertain spell, there was one other major plus point coming out of the evening. Guardiola rotated half his team, with the likes of Diego Contento, Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel van Buyten and Pizarro starting the match, but it had no impact at all on FCB’s fluency and form. The fact everyone can unconditionally rely on the squad players is “absolutely top-class,” remarked Lahm. “We know we’ll never get through the season with only eleven men.”

Even Hannover president Martin Kind was “really impressed” by the depth in the Bayern squad: “There’s even more balance than last season. This team is always in a position to shift up a gear and always has options to spare. It fits together perfectly.” However, even that is no guarantee of success, as everyone at the club well knows: “We need to get our feet back on the ground and keep working! The next match is on Saturday,” declared Rafinha, looking ahead to the weekend clash with Wolfsburg. But as Lahm said: “We’re playing at the Allianz Arena, so the only result that counts for us is a victory.”