Team spirit keeps record-breaking FCB on track
The first candle on the Advent wreath is lit. Christmas markets are open. Christmas cookies are in the making. And FC Bayern are on track -- thanks to their calm, serious and focused approach. On Saturday the German record champions wrapped up their 13th victory in 14 Bundesliga matches, setting a new record with 40 points at this point of the campaign. The so-called 'autumn championship' awarded to the team top of the league at the midpoint of the campaign is very close. But the FCB pros at the Allianz Arena had other things on their minds after the 2-0 victory over Hertha Berlin.
"A huge compliment to my team for this performance," a delighted Pep Guardiola commented. Matthias Sammer too paid a "great compliment! We're happy." The Bavarians' encounter with Hertha was a little underrated in public perception, according to the sporting director: it came a few days after the Reds had sealed the Champions League group win, one day after the Annual General Meeting, and one week before the cracker in Mönchengladbach. "Nobody really noticed that we're up against Hertha today. But that doesn't affect our players, they played very seriously."
Sammer admitted that he was "a little nervous" before the match: besides Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben and David Alaba were missing, and Joshua Kimmich was ruled out with a cold. A total of eight pros were sidelined, "particularly those who can open up space against a defensive team, and who have qualities in one-on-ones," commented Philipp Lahm, "that's why it wasn't easy today."
Nevertheless the Reds were clearly dominant against fourth-placed Hertha. The stats showed that FCB won the shot count 24-4, sent over 20 crosses to their opponents' three, and won the corners tally 9-1, partly because other players were helping out. Javí Martínez and Jérôme Boateng turned in convincing displays, revealing unsuspected talent as midfielders. "The key to success is that every player brings in team spirit besides his individual quality," commented Sammer.
'We're collecting our points'
Hertha's extremely defensive tactics did not stop the Reds, who were up against a back five again. "We deal with it. The coach deals with it. We accept the challenge and think of something. The team came up with a very good solution," commented Lahm, and added: "It's not just the period before Christmas. We've been playing very, very well for some weeks now and we're collecting our points."
The two early goals wrapped things up before half-time. After Thomas Müller scored the opener from a corner (34), Martínez' brilliant assist set up Kingsley Coman to make it two (41). "Always take it step by step, go yard for yard," insisted Sammer, who is not interested in the 'Herbstmeisterschaft.' "The autumn championship is no official accolade," commented the sporting director, who is already focusing on the upcoming challenges: "After we visit the fan clubs we'll relax a little and take on Gladbach next week."