FC Bayern face probably the toughest remaining match before the winter break, squaring off against long-time rival Borussia Mönchengladbach, the only team that the Reds have had trouble with recently, as last season's one point from two matches can attest. After starting poorly into this season, losing the first five games, Gladbach have re-racked, with Andre Schubert taking over for Lucien Favre, and since then, only Bayern have gained more points than Gladbach, and have only scored one more goal than the Foals.
Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, December 4th, 2015
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On who is missing tomorrow - David Alaba, Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben aren't available. But we have others. Of course, they're important players, it's unfortunate that they're injured, we need these players to battle against the other teams. It's comparable to the situation last season, where everyone was fit against Shakhtar Donetsk, and afterwards we had six players missing. I hope they can come back after the winter break, and be fit for the important part of the season, in February, March, April.
On whether it's unfortunate to lose these players against an opponent that might deliver an exciting match - Yes. We're trying everything we can to get our players healthy, but, at this time, they're injured. OK.
On the surprising quick development of Kingsley Coman - Well, when you buy a player, you always expect the best, but you also think that he might need a little time. With these two players, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, it's crazy how quickly they integrated into the team. We are very happy with Kingsley. He is young, so keep calm. He's only 19 years old, he has a lot of things he can still improve. He has great potential, great one-on-one skill, on both wings, good attitude, helping the team, coming back to help out, but he still has a lot of room for improvement.
On what his strengths are, and what needs to be improved - It's not easy to find the one-on-one quality, or one-on-two, he has the ability to dribble around the opponent. But, making the last pass, the last assist, having an eye for the play, making the right decision, he can improve that. But, that's normal, he's only 19. I've only met one player who, at that age, was good at everything (any guesses who he's talking about?). Even players who are 27 can still improve.
On why Bayern seems to have trouble against Gladbach - I've lost once against Gladbach, but I know the history here in Germany. Bayern's record in Gladbach is in Gladbach's favor. In the seventies, they were one of the best teams in Germany. They're always looking for good players, with offensive mentality, which is why I think tomorrow will be a super game to watch, not just for the fans in Gladbach, but also the people at home., because both teams want to attack, have the ball, play with an offensive mindset, both have quality players. I'm excited as a fan to see this game.
On whether Pep is happy that Lucien Favre is no longer the coach, because he seemed to have figured out Bayern's tactics - Guys, Favre did a great job at Borussia Mönchengladbach, but we've lost once in four games against them. That can happen against the big teams. I don't base my analysis of a team or a coach based on whether they're undefeated against us or not. In football, sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. My opinion of Lucien Favre is high. A lot of the things that Gladbach players are doing now is because of Favre. Of course, Andre Schubert has done an amazing job, with a very different playing style. With Favre, it's a lot more controlled, less space in the middle, push play outside, not inside, zone defense. Right now, Gladbach is very aggressive going forward, not allowing a lot of time to think. For that reason, we have to react quickly.
On whether Schubert's style is better - Both coaches and both teams are very, very good. Listen, when you win three Bundesliga titles in a row, and reach three Champions League semifinals, win one CL title, you play against a lot of different teams. Some move forward, others stay back, some have five-man defenses, others have three, or four. You have to play the different systems, and you need to adjust to them. No problem. Right now, we analyze Gladbach, how they play, and how we want to play.
On why Manuel Neuer seems to make mistakes against Gladbach - (According to the reporter, Neuer has committed five mistakes in four games) I don't remember any mistakes by Manu.
On whether Pep is getting bored with Bayern's dominance - For me, it's not boring. Every team has their own special situation, it's not boring to me. We have to battle every game. We saw that against Hertha Berlin, or Eintracht Frankfurt. It will be tough against Gladbach, but also against Ingolstadt, or Darmstadt in the DFB Pokal, or against Hannover. It's always tough. What people think about dominance, that's your problem, not ours. We know how hard it is to win, win, win every three days. I know I can't convince you with these statements, but we know how hard it is. You can win a lot over a one-year period, you can get a title, that can happen. But, winning constantly over four seasons, that's not easy.
On Franck Ribery's intense practice with the team - He trained very well the last two days. We are very happy with him, because he doesn't have any pain in his ankle, that's the best news. It was a weird situation, he had pain for nine months, it's a little hard for me to understand, but, in the end, he's back, and we're very happy for him.
On whether there is a chance that Ribery will be back on the game sheet for the home game against FC ingolstadt - (On December 12th) I think he will come back before the winter break. I don't know when. You're a great journalist, you know more than me. The most important thing is that Franck is fit, meaning he doesn't have any pain. Of course, after nine months, he needs more time. Yesterday and today, he was having fun, he was laughing again. He needs to go through the training with the team, not alone. It was the same situation with Holger Badstuber, after two years, the same with Javi Martinez after 13 months, or Thiago, or Jan Kirchhoff now. When the players are healthy, that's the most important thing for us.
On rumors about Sadio Mane of Southhampton being scouted by Bayern - I've told you a thousand times, buying and selling players, I'm not the right person to talk to. I know him, I remember him from playing against RB Salzburg, I got to know him well.
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.