In preparation for Wednesday's DFB Pokal against the dinosaur of the Bundesliga, Hamburger Sport Verein, Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, October 28th, 2014
Other than the upcoming game, most of the questions centered around the nomination of 6 FC Bayern players for the shortlist of finalists for the Ballon d'Or, and what a studmuffin Manuel Neuer really is.
Here are the questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On FIFA's nomination of 6 Bayern players on the short list for Ballon d'Or - (Manuel Neuer, Philip Lahm, Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, Bastian Schweinsteiger are the nominees) I am proud of them, they've done a great job, both at club and country, they should be proud of what they've accomplished.
On the upcoming DFB Pokal match against HSV - I said it last season, it's a different type of competition than in Spain, instead of two games, it's only one, like a final. They have a new coach, they play aggressive, we've seen that. The games against Gladbach, Dortmund and Roma are important, but this one is the most important right now, because if we tie or lose in BL or CL, it's not as big a deal. In the DFB Pokal, if we lose, we're done. We have lots of time after that, if we win this game, the next one is only in March (great scheduling, DFB).
On what you can take away from the BL game against HSV from last month - Hamburg is a very different team than Gladbach, they play very aggressively, they play a press, we have to adjust to that, and see what the best way is to attack them. We have to control Lasogga, he is a very good forward, not just on long balls, but he is good on the ball, in the penalty area. It's a good team.
On the chances of a Bundesliga player winning the Ballon d'Or for the first time since Lothar Matthäus - (Matthäus won the award in 1991, the year after winning the World Cup) In the last few years, there have been two outstanding players, Cristiano and Messi, who have done a great job, whether they won titles or not. Normally, when a team wins the World Cup, or does well, those players have a better chance. But I don't make the decision. Our players should be very happy to be nominated.
On being proud of being nominated for coach of the year - (Pep is among 10 coaches nominated for the coaching award) These awards are for the players. Coaches are only there for the press conferences. People come to the arena to see the players. Coaches help and support the players.
On whether he is surprised at how well Bayern is playing right now - I am proud of my team so far. We have an issue in the midfield, with Basti, Javi and Thiago missing, we don't have a lot of players. Sure, we have Sebastian Rode and Pierre (Emile Hojbjerg), but they are young. We have a lot of forwards, but we also have a little problem in defense. We will have a strong season. We are in a good position. We will have to fight for the whole BL season, and we will not win like we did last season. The league will be decided in the last few games. Dortmund will be back, Gladbach has a super organization, and Leverkusen is good too.
On Manuel Neuer's current form, is he the best goalkeeper he's had - You can't win all those titles in the last two or three years, including the World Cup, without an exceptional goalie. It's impossible. Goalkeeper is probably the most important position on the field. In our system, Manu doesn't have to make a lot of plays, maybe 2 or 3 plays, but those 2 or 3 plays are very important. Against Gladbach, they had their first opportunity in the 36th minute, nothing before then, but Manu stopped Kruse. Manu is exceptional.
On who you can compare Neuer to - I am a lucky coach, because I've had two outstanding keepers. I worked with Victor Valdes for 4 years, he was always there in the important moments, just like Neuer. Valdes is hurt now, but I'm sure he'll be back, but he is a super keeper, and so is Manu.
On how Neuer is in the dressing room - No comments on the dressing room. The dressing room is for the players.
On Robben's availability for the game, and his importance to the team - The physios told me he will practice with the team today (he did), and then we will see how fit he is. Is he important? Yeah, yeah. What do you think? (he asks the reporter)
On whether Robben would have changed the Gladbach game - I don't know what would have happened if he played. I can only concentrate on the players that are available. But, not only in my two years here, but in his entire career, he has been a top class player.
On what needs to be done to get Lewandowski to get better - The last two games against Roma and Gladbach were Robert's best games. It's not easy to play in the penalty box on this team, but he has been more involved with the team, I am very satisfied with him. Sure, forwards always want to score goals, for their confidence, but I see him as more than just scoring, he is important in the buildup, play without the ball, competing and helping with the pressing.
On Mario Götze's current form - Every player needs to be healthy and fit, and last year he was hurt for a long time, and he was on vacation after the WC, he needed some time. His positioning is always good, he is very intelligent, I like those kind of players that can play in small spaces, and use their brains. But he is young, I trust him, but I want more.
Interjection by Markus Hörwick on Heinz Müller at Bayern - (Heinz Müller, former goalkeeper for Mainz, has been seen training with the team at Bayern's practice fields) We have a new apprentice at Bayern, Heinz Müller, goalkeeper. He is currently without a job, but to stay fit, he asked to practice with the team instead of running cross-country on his own in order to stay fit. Of course there is an ulterior motive behind it too, if something were to happen to Neuer or Zingerle, we can theoretically use him, if needed.
On where winter training camp will be - (Still Hörwick answering) The decision hasn't been made, but Qatar is a good option for us, very good facilities (Pep agrees). It's 30 meters from breakfast table to the training grounds, no need for bus rides, so it's a good option from a sporting perspective.
On whether losing to Hamburg would be a huge disappointment - (Back to Pep) Sure, if you look at the BL standings, people say that Bayern has to win. But tomorrow starts at 0-0. When I analyze a team, I don't look at the standings.
On whether Hamburg is really a relegation team - Impossible. They have a lot of heart, they run a lot. Any team that plays with that much character and aggressiveness will stay in the BL.
On whether playing home and away in cup competition is better for the top teams - Yes. It's a bigger risk for the bigger team playing one game, but by playing less games, it makes the quality of the games better. There are only 18 teams in the BL, so less games than Spain. Players aren't as tired, both in their legs and in their heads.
On whether Heinz Müller is really only an emergency option - Leopold Zingerle is the 5th string keeper, 2nd (Pepe Reina), 3rd (Tom Starke) and 4th (Ivan Lucic) string keepers are all hurt. It's a risk, because Leopold hasn't trained that much, so we have to see. But it's possible that we will sign Müller to a contract through Christmas, or the rest of the season, depending on Reina's and Starke's situation. I want to thank Müller for being available, yesterday was his first training, we will see.
On Schweinsteiger's mental condition - I think he's good. He has been training individually with Holger, but he should be able to join the team soon. When that happens, he'll be happier. Mentally, he can handle it, he's very experienced.
On whether Schweinsteiger can join the team during the next national team break - Sure, he can train. It was the same with Franck (Ribery), as soon as he doesn't have any pain, he can train.
On why Jerome Boateng didn't play against Gladbach - It was my decision. Benatia can't play in Hamburg, and Jerome has played a lot of games. I didn't want to risk anything. I trust Dante, Benatia, Boateng, Jerome is one of the best central defenders in the world.
On why Benatia can't play against Hamburg - (Explanation from Hörwick) Because he received a red card in his last cup game with Roma last season, he has to sit out the next game in the DFB Pokal. (Pep interjects with a thumbs up and a very sarcastic "Great rule!")
On whether anyone else has to miss the game -Everyone else is fit.