Created on 11-01-2018 at 13:30 PM
Jupp Heynckes has not had long to prepare his team for the resumption of Bundesliga action in 2018 – just ten days in fact, with six of them spent at the training camp in Doha. However, the FC Bayern head coach is not complaining (“It’s the same for all teams.”) but was in a fine mood on the eve of the first game of the second half of the season. “Who was the last Bayern coach to win in Leverkusen?” he asked mischievously at his press conference. Heynckes grinned knowing full well that it was in fact him.
The 2-1 victory in March 2013 was the last time the record German champions won at Bayer Leverkusen – almost five years ago. Heynckes’ message ahead of Friday’s game at Leverkusen (kick-off 20:30 CET, full coverage available via our live ticker) was therefore serious: Watch out for the Werkself!
“A tough start”
Heiko Herrlich’s side are on a league-best 12-match unbeaten run, as Heynckes warned: “They’re a young, highly talented, hungry, quick team with plenty of imagination.” The Bayern coach is expecting a game with “a lot of elements that make football attractive. It’s an opening fixture that has the capability to be both thrilling and tough.”
“They’re dangerous opponents who break forward quickly. We have to be fully focused,” said Sven Ulreich ahead of the first competitive fixture of the year. The FCB goalkeeper has not forgotten the previous meeting, which Bayern won 3-1, but also had to content with numerous Leverkusen attacks.
Ulreich will once again be between the sticks for the next encounter on Friday evening in place of the injured Manuel Neuer. Thiago is also still some weeks away from a return. Heynckes will also be without Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels at the BayArena. The pair have both returned to training with the team, but the game has come too soon, according to Heynckes. “It would be careless to risk them. Neither of them are in the squad.”
Wagner to lead the line?
As for whether Sandro Wagner will replace Lewandowski in attack, Heynckes stated that the winter signing is “the first option”. The treble-winning coach still had to mull it over, although the 29-year-old forward had “impressed” him. “He’s very ambitious, very disciplined. He’s integrated very well into the squad.” However, there has not been enough time to adequately convey attacking plays and understanding of the team’s game. “The process of integration takes longer than just two weeks,” Heynckes added.
The team are also only halfway to their target of the league title. Heynckes described the 11-point gap at the top of the table as “comfortable” but at the same time stressed, “We have to keep going and not look at the table because that doesn’t win us points.” His motto for the second half of the season: “Momentum stems from success.” And that begins on Friday evening.