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Pep targets league title

Guardiola focused on the details

This is undoubtedly a special time for the players and coaching staff at FC Bayern. It’s due not only to the remarkable surroundings and outstanding conditions at the Volkswagen Camp Qatar, but for another key reason as well: “We’re very relaxed for now,” reflected Pep Guardiola, “the next match isn’t for another three weeks, so we’re under no pressure at the moment.” That’s a real rarity at Germany’s biggest club, where the stars are once again eyeing up the prospect of three trophies in the second half of the season.

However, there is no obvious sign of relaxation out on the practice ground in Doha. On Saturday morning Guardiola put his men through a grueling session involving an array of short but intense drills. The coach was in the thick of things as usual, shouting encouragement, correcting errors and watching every move with the eyes of a hawk.

The most important thing, the Spaniard explained to some 60 German and international reporters attending the midday press conference at the team hotel after the first workout of the day, was that no player picked up an injury. Fitness is one priority during the spell in Doha, but a second primary focus is tactics. “We’re working on the way we play, on the tiniest details, the tactics. During the season we hardly have any time to work on certain plays we want to learn off by heart.”

As Guardiola insisted before the mid-season break, there are still plenty of areas where the Reds can improve. “We have an 11 point lead, the equivalent of three matches,” Guardiola remarked, “so we have to win 14 of our remaining 17 games. 14! Not just one or two.” That calculation explains the boss’s insistence on full concentration during the time in Doha.

The restart fixture is the mouth-watering clash away to second-placed Wolfsburg, much to Pep’s delight. “It’s super! As is the fact we face Schalke immediately afterwards.” Concentration levels would remain high, the Spaniard explained. “If we doze off, we’ll drop points. But if we’re in a position to do well in our first five or six games, we’ll have taken a giant stride towards defending the Bundesliga title.”

As ever, winning the domestic league is the top target at Bayern. “For me the Bundesliga title is the most important thing. If you win the championship, it goes down as a great season,” Guardiola confirmed. But what about the Champions League? The team’s shape and form “at a particular moment” is the key to success in Europe, the coach explained, another reason for ceaseless and intense training: “My goal is for us to play better every day, because it gives you even more confidence for the important games.”