'It's going to be a lively encounter'
It's crunch time! For FC Bayern, the Bundesliga standout fixture at RB Leipzig on Saturday (18:30 CEST) marks the start of the crucial final phase of the season with the decisive battles for the German championship and the knockout games in the Champions League. In this interview, Thomas Müller talks about Leipzig, PSG and the loss of Robert Lewandowski.
Thomas Müller - The interview
fcbayern.com: Thomas, historically speaking, April is always a crucial month. How much are you looking forward to it all?
Müller: "April is packed with a lot of games as well as very decisive ones. It's set up for the most intense phase of the football season. We're edging closer to the title deciders. In the Champions League, the difference in performance levels is getting smaller and smaller. So naturally we're excited, euphoric, but also humble. We know there are some good opponents heading our way. These are perfect conditions."
Unfortunately, Robert Lewandowski is now out injured. How will you compensate for that as a team?
"It's very tough for Lewy and for us as a team. When our best scorer by far and a character like that gets injured, it's really not easy. But that's the challenge of professional football and not completely new. We have to compensate for it together. We still have very good options in attack and different variations for the line-up. It'll certainly look a bit different than in the games with Lewy. But I'm still feeling positive. There will always be injuries and at inopportune times. That's why we don't have just one top-quality player in the team, but lots and lots of them. We aim to get the maximum out of the situation until Lewy's back."
You're also missing your ideal partner in the centre. Does that mean you'll have to make adjustments?
"Of course. Lewy and I have been playing together for about seven years. Of course, we have a certain connection and we know how the other reacts, which spaces he likes to run into or when it comes to playing a one-two. There's an understanding of the game there and we're very well-drilled. It's certainly not an advantage for us or for my game because I'm always looking for Lewy as well. But now I have to find another player who'll make those runs, or I might be the one who receives the pass in the penalty area. We have to step into the breach, and as a team score as many goals as Lewy."
On Saturday, it's the top-of-the-table clash against Leipzig. Does the game feel like a title-decider?
"It's the standout fixture in the Bundesliga right now and in this season. We can take a decisive step if we win in Leipzig. If we don't win, things will remain exciting, with the title race on a knife edge. So it's certainly the yardstick for all football fans in Germany. It's going to be a lively encounter."
Most recently, there were four draws against Leipzig in the league. What makes them so strong and what will be particularly important?
"Leipzig's strengths lie in having the right balance and how they work together as a team. They know what they want to do on the pitch and have a well thought-out concept. They all appear to be pulling in the same direction, they don't show any uncertainty. They're not dependent on any one player, in attack or defence. They vary their play a lot and always have different formations. The last four straight draws against us also show that Leipzig are a quality side. Nevertheless, we're going to go there full of confidence and with a four-point lead. As FC Bayern, we always walk onto the pitch feeling like we'll leave it as winners. That's how it'll be this time, too. We're approaching it with optimism, even though we're aware that it's going to be a difficult task."
The title race is exciting. Is that a special incentive?
"We definitely want to become champions. We know that this season is a very special one because of the circumstances - the heavy workload in the summer and the special fixture list. It was clear from the start that it wouldn't be an easy season for us. But the pressure's on Leipzig. We have a four-point lead and will definitely remain top of the table. If we win, it'll be a clear sign that we're heading for the championship. I see it as an advantage that the pressure is on Leipzig."
You bagged a brace in the last game, what are your plans for this one?
"We have to make sure that we win the game. Even better if I score. I always say: In football it doesn't matter who scores the goals, as long as I score two (laughs). That's how I approach the game."
What are you hoping for in the next two months - personally and with the team?
"I'm hoping for the obvious, that the opportunity of winning the title is in our own hands right up until the last moment. That applies to the Bundesliga - that's a longer competition that's played every week and in which we still have very good opponents - and of course the Champions League, Europe's premier club competition. That's always something special, especially as defending champions. Even though I've played a lot of games in the Champions League, it's still the crowning glory and we definitely want to get into the next round. In PSG, we've drawn very difficult opponents. But the games will be interesting, that's what makes it so special. After all, you want to play against the best opposition - and win."
In an interview with the FCB members' magazine '51', Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting spoke about the upcoming UCL clash against his former club PSG: