Trying to set a new Bundesliga Hinrunde record (if they win both remaining games, they will have 45 points at the winter break, beating last season's record of 44), FC Bayern Munich welcomes SC Freiburg to the Allianz Arena for a midweek Bundesliga match. Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, December 15th, 2014
Although the press conference was in preparation for the BL matchup with Freiburg, not surprisingly, a lot of questions revolved around FC Shakhtar Donetsk, who was drawn this morning as their next Champions League opponent for the round of 16.
Here are the questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On what Pep's reaction was to drawing Donetsk - I have a little more experience with them than Bayern. Bayern have never played against them. I've played against them 3, 4, 5 times. I know Mircea Lucescu. He is one of the best coaches in Europe. His teams always play well. He has a lot of Brazilians (last I checked, that doesn't impress German players much these days), with Taison, Luiz Adriano, Alex Teixeira, and especially Douglas Costa, a big talent. They have good experience in the back with Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Arijo Srna, who is their captain. They play offensively, but the most important thing will be how we play in February. Our conditioning and mental state will be important. We will obviously try to win, and get to the quarterfinals. I look forward to seeing Lucescu again.
On playing four times against Donetsk with Barcelona, and even losing once at home - We've played them five times, once in the Supercup final in Monaco. Not a lot of people know this team, but they've won the domestic league the last 4 seasons in the Ukraine. They have young talented players. They buy young Brazilians and sell them again in 2 or 3 years. I think it will be a good game. Both teams like to attack, not just defend, so it will be good for our fans.
On Luiz Adriano scoring 8 of his 9 CL goals this season against one team - (BATE Borisov got whupped in both legs of group play, with Adriano scoring 5 in one game, and merely a hattrick in the other) I know him from my time in Barcelona. He is a good striker, fast, good team player, but he's not the only one. There are many things we need to identify and analyze.
On playing in Lviv instead of in Donetsk - (Due to the armed conflicts in eastern Ukraine, Shakhtar has been forced to base their operations out of Kiev, and play in Lviv in the western part of the country) We're playing in Kiev, no? (No, Pep, in Lviv) The best thing would be if the conflict ended, and the Ukraine and Russia settle their problems. But, we will play where UEFA tells us to play.
On what he thinks about the other games with German participation - I don't know. Dortmund against Juventus is a match of two good teams. Juventus has a lot of experience, and they have a lot of good players. I am convinced Dortmund will play well in this competition. Schalke having to play against the reigning CL champions isn't easy, of course, but their coach (Roberto DiMatteo) has a lot of experience. All the games from now on, round of 16, quarterfinals, are going to be interesting (Leverkusen, apparently, doesn't warrant an analysis)
On whether Pep is happy with the draw results, since it could have been worse - It doesn't matter if I'm happy or not. I always have great respect for our opponents. I've learned over the years that you play who you have to play, and every opponent has their strengths. None of our players have ever played against Shakhtar, so I have to inform them about the team. It's different than playing against a team like Arsenal, where we all know them better. But, as I've said, the most important thing is how our team feels in February, three days before the game.
On what Pep expects at the last home game of the year - Four games ago, I said that the next 6 BL games are very important. We've won the last 4 games, and we've played against uncomfortable opponents. People have forgotten a little of our game last season (he's referring to the 1-1 draw in Freiburg, not the 3-0 shellacking in Munich). I don't know if their coach will come forward and press, or if they will hang back. This coach plays aggressive, likes to play man-to-man. We have to prepare well mentally. This is the last home game of a good year, in front of our fans, I hope things go well.
On whether opponents always break down as soon as Bayern goes up 1-0 - It didn't happen in Berlin. We scored a goal, and in the second half, they had more clear scoring chances than us. When we get a goal, we have to fight for a second and third. Every game is different, but, of course, if we have possession, and we play fast, the opponent has to run, and they can tire in the second half. If we can score a goal, it makes it a little easier. But, it's always hard in football. Last season, everyone said it would be easy, and we lost in Augsburg. We lost at home to Dortmund 0-3. Every game starts at 0-0, every game we have to fight, we have to implement our playing style, and tomorrow will be the same. If we win, we have the chance to increase our lead, with Wolfsburg playing in Dortmund.
On whether Pep is surprised at how well Bayern has played defensively, only allowing 3 goals - We have Manuel Neuer. That's a big advantage for us. (The reporter follows up, "That's it, that's the secret?") No, Manu knows that's not all of it. Against Paderborn, or maybe Hannover at home, in the first half, there was a one-on-one with Neuer, and he stopped it. In that kind of moment, Manu is always there. But, the reason is that all 11 players run back, and we possess well. It's very hard for the opponent to score when we have the ball.
On how important Matthias Sammer is for Pep's work as a coach -I've said before, he has helped me a lot, especially last year, when I was new here, and this year too. I can't control everything (it's not from a lack of trying, that's for sure), and he helps me and the team as well. He's a strong man, which is important for the club, not just for me. I get support from the whole club, not just Matthias. He came here 3 years ago, and since then, the team made a big step forward, and won a lot of titles.
On whether Pep's job would be harder without Sammer - I am very happy working with him.
On any new injured players, other than the long-term cases - Xabi Alonso was sick at the last game, he was in the hospital today, and we'll make a decision tomorrow, but everyone else is fit. (Markus Hörwick wants to clarify, in the hospital or at the doctor's?) At the doctor, ok. Where does the doctor usually work, in the hospital, right? (Hörwick corrects him, saying he works in his practice) Ahh, ok, in the practice (Hörwick jokes that the headlines about Xabi being in the hospital were ready to go, while Pep blames his limited German) A hospital is where the doctors work, if you are sick, normally you go there (all of this was discussed in good fun, with a lot of laughs)
On whether the players are showing signs of fatigue at the end of a long year - No, I didn't see that against Augsburg. They will have vacation time in 5 days, so it's not an issue right now.
On what the secret is to having such a good first half of the season, after everyone predicted a tough start after the World Cup - Super coach! (he gives a little grin) It's a joke. The most important thing is the mindset of the players. In the end, the most important thing for the club is the decision on who to buy, if you make the right choices, the future looks good. Karl Heinz Rummenigge, Matthias Sammer, and now Michael Reschke, I told them, you are the most important people in this club, if you buy the right players, like Juan Bernat. The coach is important, but the players are the most important. This club won with one coach, now they're winning with another coach, in the future they'll win with another coach. When you buy the players with the right quality, and the right mental attitude, the task for the coach is a little easier. As a coach, you can't do anything if the attitude and the passion aren't there.
On how he changed his approach this season to keep tired players fit, did he plan on rotating them or taking it easy on them in practice - At the beginning of the season, you have a little plan, but in my experience as a coach, you try to win every game, and I'm thinking that I will rotate players a lot, but at the last moment, I change my mind. I'm not set in my ways, you have to use your nose (I'm guessing that has to be a Spanish phrase, as he's used it before, it appears that it means something along the lines of using your intuition), you have to watch the players, but the idea is always the same: there are no excuses for not winning the game, be it friendly, Bundesliga, Pokal, Champions League, or Paulaner Cup, it doesn't matter. You have to prepare as well as possible to win the game, and my players know that. If we won, if we have a 9 point lead, I can't accept any reason to not make the next game the most important.
On whether he will rotate again, after having made 5 changes for the Augsburg game - Tomorrow, you will know the solution (this was answered in English, not sure why). I don't know. I watched the last Freiburg game. Today, I will watch our team, and tomorrow I will decide what it best for the moment, for the club, for the roster.
On whether Martin Ødegaard is the best 15-year Pep has ever seen - I don't know. He's a good player, but I don't know whether he is the best. At 15, Messi was also good, and so was Cristiano.
On how important it is to get all the player data from the various technical equipment that Bayern is using - It's just information. It's not the most important thing for me. It's good info to have, one more piece of information, but to make my decision, or analyze a game, I don't need a sensor or a camera. A sensor can't analyze that the player made the right decision at the right time. If it tells me that the player ran a lot, that's fine, but was he running well, or not. Was he chasing the ball?
On whether he needs the vacation as well - No, this part of the season has been super. We have two week windows during national team breaks, where the coaches can regenerate. It's harder on the players that play for a big club, and on the national team, so the vacation is more important for them. Of course, when you win, it's easier, when you lose, it's a little more tiring.
On Sebastian Rode's injured toe, which kept him out of practice - No, he was rested after the game. A lot of times, the players who played don't participate. They stay inside. Today, we will see. I never make my decisions until after the final practice. He took a little hit to his toe, and I don't think it will be a problem.
On how Bastian Schweinsteiger is handling playing almost two full games recently - The most important thing is that he is back. He doesn't have any pain in his patella, and he played well in both games. I think the break will be good for him, and it's important for him to go through winter training camp.
Disclaimer - Due to the nature of having a coach whose native language is not German, the translation of the quotes is not exactly word for word, but includes some interpretation on the part of the author of this article, in order to more accurately portray what the coach is intending to say. There is some necessary guesswork involved.