Training work pays off for James and Bayern

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“He’s a great footballer. He can do everything going forward, you don’t have to tell him anything at all.” Niko Kovac was full of praise for James Rodríguez in his pre-match press conference on Friday, and the Colombian didn’t disappoint against Schalke the following day, playing a decisive role in Bayern’s 2-0 victory in Gelsenkirchen.

The 27-year-old headed Bayern in front from a corner in the eighth minute – a routine the team work on every day. “We practise crossing a lot in training and you’re seeing that now in our matches,” revealed the goalscorer. Kovac also explained on Friday that he “wants to prepare his team so that they’re successful”. It appeared the plan against the Royal Blues was to get down the wings and force set-pieces.

James the pivot

There was a good reason for that: five of the eight goals Schalke have conceded in the Bundesliga this season have come from dead balls, including the visitors’ second goal yesterday. After James drew a penalty with his dribbling in the box, Robert Lewandowski confidently tucked away the penalty in the 64th minute. James was therefore directly involved in both goals, but there was much more to his performance. He was the pivot of Bayern’s attack, setting up the most chances (seven) and attempting the most shots on goal (three). He could’ve scored more, going close in the 25th and 50th minute.

“I was in the game,” he said, reflecting on his performance and “a deserved win against strong opposition”. James seems to like the Veltins-Arena as he celebrated his first goal for Bayern at the same stadium last year. Having started pre-season training late following the World Cup, he’s now back in top form.

Build on good start

“I’m feeling better with every day, every training session and I’m at a good level. I want to carry on this way,” commented the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner. However, James and the rest of the Bayern team cannot afford to relax as they are back in action on Tuesday at home to Augsburg. “We’ve laid down a good start, which we want to build on,” stressed Leon Goretzka, who was on the opposing team at Schalke for the first time since his move in the summer.

“It was certainly a special game for me. I’m delighted that we won,” said the 23-year-old following Bayern’s seventh win in seven competitive games this season. Kovac is only the second FCB coach after Carlo Ancelotti (eight) to win his first seven matches in charge. The Croatian is getting top performances out of his players with the right training and the right words – James’ performance against Schalke being the latest example.

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