It's the Topspiel of the Bundesliga, featuring league leaders FC Bayern Munich and 3rd place Bayer Leverkusen. Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, December 5th, 2014
Pep was in a feisty mood today, cracking lots of jokes.
Here are the questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On whether Pep can get himself and the team motivated for the last 5 games - (Hörwick usually starts the press conferences with some softball questions of his own, before opening up the floor to the journalists, but this is one of his sillier questions) Of course, we have to, it's the last 5 games before the break. We had a week off to rest up, but after the Leverkusen game, we have a game every 3 days. But, I am positive, positive, that we will play this game (good comeback, Pep).
On how tough it will be to play a very good Leverkusen team - It's a good team, I'm a big, big fan of their playing style and their coach. They've played very well, no matter whether they've won, tied or lost, they've implemented the coach's ideas. They play their style, no matter who the opponent is, top or bottom BL team, Pokal, or Champions League. They play attacking football, and they will do that here as well, and it is up to us to interpret that.
On playing against a coach who knows how to play and how to beat Bayern - (Roger Schmidt was the coach of Red Bull Salzburg, and played against Bayern in a test game during last season's winter break, beating them 3-0) We had training camp in Qatar, and then we had two hard days of practice here before playing them, but it's no excuse, they were a better team. It was a good loss, in preparation for the second part of the season, it put us in our place. That's when I met Roger for the first time, and I am looking forward to coaching against him again. Coaches like Roger are very good for football, someone who plays offensive football, it's good for the game and for the fans.
On how much of Guardiola is in Roger Schmidt - I don't know. I just met him for the first time at our game, and I also saw him at the UEFA coaches conference, but I didn't talk to him much, he was talking to Jürgen Klopp and Schalke's coach (the now unemployed Jens Keller), but I am not one of his players or his assistant coach, I don't know his style or philosophy, but I like his game.
On whether the spectators can expect a spectacle - Yes, sure. When all the players want to attack, it will always be an exciting spectacle, it will be a very good game, I'm sure of that. It's not easy when one team only defends, it makes it tough, so playing against a team that attacks a lot, with Kießling, Bellarabi, Son, Calhanoglu, they are very good with the second ball, so I think tomorrow, the fans at the Allianz Arena will be satisfied.
On whether Pep will use Robben and Ribery in the middle or on the wings - Tomorrow, they're both playing at full back (a little wink towards the reporter). No, they can play inside or outside, doesn't matter, whether we play 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, it doesn't matter. If we have 4 in the back, and Jérôme Boateng brings the ball into the middle, now we're playing with a 3-man backline., And, in the right moment, if Xabi Alonso moves back to play in the middle of the defense, now we're back to 4. If Franck Ribéry starts on the outside, he can come in when needed. The important thing for a coach is for players to make the right decisions at the right time.
On whether the lineup against Leverkusen will be the same as against Hertha Berlin - No. It's a completely different type of team. Berlin would wait, and attack with their full backs down the flanks, but Leverkusen plays attacking press, they attack through the middle, so our defense has to be completely different, and so is our attack. The tactic depends on the quality of the opponent, and their setup.
On what kind of lessons were learned from playing an aggressively pressing team like RB Salzburg - They were the better team, and had more scoring chances in the 1st half, but this time we won't wait for their pressing. That's how Salzburg played, and that's how they play now. The Leverkusen players have embraced Roger Schmidt's tactics, and that makes him a good coach. Stefan Kießling is running around like a young guy, and that is Schmidt's accomplishment. We expect them to play the same, they're different players, but using the same idea.
On whether his team will find a better solution this time - Yes, I would like that, but it depends on us. This is a big game for us. In the CL, they have dominated their group, and have already qualified, and in the BL, they are a good opponent in the fight for the championship. It will be a big step forward tomorrow if we can win.
On what the best method is to counter the aggressive pressing -The pressing is simple, where is the ball? Normally, our players have more time on the ball. I've watched three or four of their games this week, and there are always three players putting pressure on the ball. They press, win the ball, and immediately attack into the defense. We have to interpret the game well, and make quick decisions. But, I'm sorry, I have a lot of confidence in my team.
On whether the week of rest allows Bastian Schweinsteiger to be an option for this game - Yes, he is an option, a real option (smiles). I have an idea on the lineup, we have most of the team set, but not everyone yet, and I need to make a decision during practice.
On whether he will still be making tactical plans tonight, or if he will sit at home and watch the Dortmund - Hoffenheim game - No, normally when we have an away game, we would watch the Friday game in the hotel, after dinner, with some white wine, Riesling, of course, in Germany, but of course I will watch this excellent game. These are top teams, independent of their position in the standings, my opinion of Dortmund is high, and it will be a very good game.
On the injury situation in the team - All the players were fit yesterday, other than the long term injured players. We had a super training.
On whether the defenses will decide the game - Tomorrow, we're playing an 11-man defense. To control the game, we need to have 11 men behind the ball (smiles). Tomorrow we will have more defenders (not sure if he was continuing the joke, or meant that they would play 4 back, against the more offensive team).
On how he convinced Franck Ribéry to play in the middle of the field - Franck's position is on the wing. His strength is on the left, but he can play on the right, or up top, he has incredible quality. What we need from him is his skill in the one-on-one. Sometimes, I will put him in the middle, because I thought about it, or I saw something, or I slept poorly the night before, and it looked like he would get more one-on-one situations in the middle against an opponent, that's the only reason I played him there. That applies to skill players like Robben or Götze too. I look for a point of weakness, and I try to put these players in those positions. Ribery is a top quality player, and he's a fighter. If he has to run back to defend a thousand times, he can do it. I saw him do it under Jupp Heynckes, when they won the triple, it's tough to do.
On goal line technology - (The DFL just approved this for next season) It's good, I approve. Goals happen in a split second, and if technology can assist us in making the right decision, I like it. When we win, I want it to be deserved. If the opponent deserves to win, they should win.
On whether Hakan Calhanoglu is the most dangerous BL spot kick specialist - I don't know if he's the best, but he's one of the best, absolutely. For that reason we need to keep play away from our penalty box. They have quality on corners, and on set pieces, Kießling, Rolfes, it will be a top game. We need our best performance to win this game.
On the importance of Rafinha - (apparently, someone is doing a special on the Brazilian, so the reporter wanted to get Pep's opinion) I found out how reliable Rafinha was. He didn't play much, behind Philipp Lahm, but when he got 4 or 5 minutes at the end of the game, he showed me that I can rely on him, no matter what. Very tactically smart player, good on the ball, and very good in the dressing room, a good person, always laughing, he likes to play football. I like players like that.
On what Pep would do if he were coaching against Bayern - (According to the reporter, someone had asked Pep this question last week after the Hertha game, and Pep had said he didn't understand the question, since it was posed in a very complicated manner) I need another week to think about that one.
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.