On-fire Reds shine on the break
It goes without saying that seven matches in 22 days is physically and mentally demanding. But a few weeks ago Pep Guardiola said: "If you're fit in your head you're fit in your legs." On Saturday, the Catalan let his troops do what they do best: attack at full speed -- and the men from Munich breezed past South German rivals VfB Stuttgart. After goal number four at the very latest, 40 minutes into the contest, it no longer mattered that the Arsenal match had taken place a mere 55 hours previously.
"The team did well," commented Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, "after a Champions League match on a Wednesday -- which we won by a 5-1 scoreline -- we can be very pleased." Manuel Neuer, who kept a clean sheet for the eighth time in this season's Bundesliga campaign, pointed out that these things do not happen by chance: "It isn't always as easy as it looks afterwards. We're very happy and pleased, with the result and the manner in which we played."
In the first half in particular, watching the men in red play was a highly rewarding experience. In contrast to all Bayern's recent matches, the Reds encountered opponents who also wanted to attack. "It's nice when there's some space. The players enjoyed it," commented skipper Philipp Lahm, who spent the afternoon on the bench, "we were very quick in our counter-attacks."
Indeed, the Bavarians, who usually pen their opponents back into their own box, were actually able to launch counter-attacks against the Swabians -- and this on home turf at the Allianz Arena. "Our five forwards were quick and exploited the space well," analysed Guardiola. Arjen Robben scored the opener (11) a few seconds after a Stuttgart corner. Costa made it two (18) after the Swabians had pushed up too far. VfB subsequently defended deeper, but that could not prevent Robert Lewandowski (37) and Thomas Müller (40) from scoring.
Happy and proud to be part of this team
On average the Bavarians took a shot at goal every two minutes in the first half. At the end they boasted 33 shots -- the last time that happened was back in February 2009. "It's fun. Everybody's happy and proud to be part of this team," said Robben, who made the starting line-up for the third time since his recovery from injury. He even had more scoring chances after the break.
But the second half's emotional highlight had nothing to do with the scoreline anyway: Holger Badstuber made his yearned-for comeback. "It sent shivers down my spine. Everybody at the Allianz Arena could feel it," Lahm commented. The FCB youth product came on as a sub in the 59th minute. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was "very happy" that Badstuber returned, "our wish for him is that he'll stay fit after being injured for such a long time."
Coach Guardiola hopes this holds true for all the players who leave for international duty on Monday. After the two-week break the Reds aim to win the challenging Bundesliga match away to Schalke. "Our goal is to keep up this mentality until the Christmas break," announced Guardiola. That will of course be no easy task in the light of the players' heavy workload, weighing down on both the head and the legs.