On the 115th birthday of the club (there is free cake in the Erlebniswelt, the club museum in the stadium, if you can make it), Bayern welcomes 1. FC Köln to the Allianz Arena. It may look like a huge mismatch on paper, the superpower league leaders going against the promoted side of Cologne, but beware of the Geißböcke (billy goats), as they are the second best away team in the league. Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, February 26th, 2015
After getting a rest from midweek games, FC Bayern Munich is starting another busy part of their schedule, with five games in a span of 16 days, including matches in the Champions League (return leg against Shakhtar Donetsk) and the DFB Pokal (away at Eintracht Braunschweig).
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On getting to watch Champions League games on TV this week - Champions League is always good to watch, to be able to see the big teams in Europe, it's always interesting.
On what makes Köln the second strongest away team in the league - That says something. Köln is the second strongest away team after FC Bayern. They have a very good defensive organization.
On what the strengths of Köln are - In our first game in Köln, we only allowed one scoring chance, in the last 20 minutes, we created more scoring chances. In the first half, like in Paderborn and in other away matches, we had a few problems with attacking quickly. Tomorrow we'll see how well we play and create offensively, but we have to control their counter attacks, of course.
On the current flu epidemic going around Germany, is everyone fit - Yes, no flu epidemic. Not yet.
On how high the score will be, after an 8-0 against HSV and a 6-0 against Paderborn - Next question, please (Pep rolls his eyes and glares at the journalist). I don't know. Listen, I have a lot of respect for our opponents.
On whether it annoys him that everyone expects Bayern to win by a huge score - A week ago, at the last press conference, this wasn't a point of discussion. We had a lot of problems that week. Football depends on the score, our level of play at that moment, it's a new game, and I always have great respect for our opponents, doesn't matter who the opponent is - Pokal, second division, third division, I try my best to analyze the other team to familiarize myself with them, to, of course, win the game.
On the status of Mehdi Benatia - No, he's not fit. I was talking about the flu, nobody has the flu, but Benatia is not fit yet. Thiago [Alcantara], Philipp [Lahm] and Javi [Martinez] also aren't ready, but the rest are fit.
On who will play tomorrow - Who? Who plays? (Pep looks genuinely shocked at the question) I don't know yet. I have this afternoon to think about it. I have an idea, but I'm not 100% sure yet.
On where Pep sees the current trend for the team - My feeling is, I am lucky to be able to coach these players. We won the last game 6-0, but we only had two scoring chances in the first half, we scored two goals. We didn't play the ball quickly enough, but it's not easy against nine players in the penalty box, with only one forward. I don't know, I think the team is in good shape, but, of course, we can improve. We need to focus tomorrow on the little details against Köln, and now we have a game every three days, Pokal, Bundesliga now against Köln, then Hannover, Bremen, Mönchengladbach before the national team break, and then our most important game, against Shakhtar [Donetsk].
On Arjen Robben's comments that Pep has helped him improve as a player - Normally, when you have a player of that quality, you can't help them, that's impossible. When you are at a level of Arjen Robben, it all depends on the player himself. His head is clear, there are no doubts in his mind, his legs are good too, when that happens, it's all the player. When the referee starts the game, I am on the sideline, and they are on the field, that's the big difference. (The reporter insists that Robben gave Pep credit for improving him) There are different opinions. You can ask another player, if he doesn't play well, they'll tell you that the coach didn't help them. In my past, I've had some players who have criticized me in front of journalists. Some players you can help, others you can't, but the most important thing is the team.
On whether he expects teams to be even more defensive, after the latest results -If we were to play Bayer Leverkusen tomorrow, they would attack, with pressing. It all depends on the coach and each opponent. If we analyze our first game in Köln, what our opponent did, their defensive approach (someone's phone starts playing music, and Pep starts dancing in his chair), they waited for counter attacks. But, we have to be ready for either pressing or sitting back. We need to attack them.
On Matthias Sammer's comments about Bayern needing to go into "machine mode"- I think we've played at a good level. Sometimes we play worse, sometimes we play better, but we haven't allowed many goals, in the last four games, we allowed very, very few scoring chances, and we controlled the game. That is our goal. The quality of our players makes the difference. In the end, the most important thing is to pay attention to the small and the large details, and we try to win, of course, and play the best we can.
On machines never making mistakes, is the message that Bayern can't make any more mistakes - Of course, I've said it a thousand million times, we make mistakes. Last week, in this press conference, we talked about the problems we had. We are a good team, but we've seen that there are a lot of good teams in Europe. Against Paderborn, we scored three goals when they were a man down, that doesn't help to analyze our game. Every game is an opportunity to improve our confidence and our play. That's our goal.
On Mitchell Weiser's improved play, and his expiring contract - There are a lot of journalists who know more than me about the future of players on our roster. You have to ask them. I am very satisfied with Mitch, he's a good person. He hasn't played a lot of games, but his mood and performance in training is good, and whenever he's played, he played well. He runs a lot, he has to be calmer with the ball, but he is young, he has lots of time to improve that. But we are very happy with him. Matthias [Sammer] can speak better about extending contracts...or you can ask those journalists.
On whether Köln is an "Angstgegner" for Bayern - (Angstgegner literally translates into "fear opponent", which is basically a nemesis. They have to explain the term to Pep) They're afraid of us? Me? I'm afraid of Köln? No. Fear, no. After the game tomorrow, I will go home, eat dinner, get a good night's sleep, and prepare for the Pokal game. It's just a game. (Followup question about having a feared opponent when Pep was at Barcelona) Fear? Never. If we lost a game, it was great motivation to win the next game. I understand that sometimes we can't win, we can lose. The Wolfsburg game taught me a lot. When you win a game 6-0, it's hard to improve on something. It's hard to tell the players we didn't do something well, because they point to the score. But when you lose 4-1, or you lose to Real Madrid (this is the second week in a row he has brought up last season's disappointing performance against the Spanish giants), or the first game in Mönchengladbach, we have things to improve.
On Franck Ribéry's comment that he could see changing his citizenship to German - That's a question for Franck, please. I don't know.
On what lessons you can take from blowout wins like the 8-0 and 6-0 - Play better, boys, play better. We can play well for 60 minutes, or for 70, or for 80, or more. The individual players can improve their conditioning. When we achieve a good scoreline, we can have a one minute press conference and go have lunch. But we can always improve, always.
On the surprising results in the Champions League this week (Monaco's win at Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen's win against Atletico) - Nowadays, as opposed to 30 years ago, there are many, many journalists, and many, many opinions. Before the games, they have to talk, they have to give their opinions. Who is Monaco? Monaco? Pfft. They won their group, but it's Monaco. Or Shakhtar Donetsk. Meh. Of course, we can't follow the Ukrainian league. And Leverkusen, only sixth in the league. But that's normal. After the games begin, you see that they're really good, and everyone is tough. They run, they play well, and on and on. I know Bayer Leverkusen very well, I'm happy for them, they did a very good job, and of course both teams have big chances to qualify for the quarterfinals, and except for one or two matchups, they're close, and anything can happen in the second leg.
On Pep's lack of enthusiasm at the end of the Paderborn game, was he unhappy - No, no, I was very satisfied. But when it's 6-0, and playing ten against eleven in the last minutes, I try to show a little respect towards my colleague and our opponents. Normally, if you get a lucky goal, or the opponent scores an own goal, you don't celebrate. But I was very satisfied, I know it's not easy to win in Paderborn. They got a 2-2 draw against BVB, 1-1 against Wolfsburg.
On reacting differently when winning 6-0 or 8-0, as opposed to winning 1-0 or 2-0 - Normally, I am very satisfied when we play well. Against Hamburg, we played better than in Paderborn, I was happier. But when we win 6-0, and we have a long week, we have more peace and quiet to work.
On what he wants to give the fans on the 115th birthday of FC Bayern - Congratulations! I want the fans to go home after the game in the Allianz Arena and be satisfied. That would be the nicest present for our fans.
On FIFA's decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar during the months of November and December - More vacation time, good! For the coach, and the players that don't go to Qatar, it's more vacation time. It's warm in the summer in Qatar (slight understatement), you have to play in the winter. I think FIFA and UEFA will do a good job organizing it, as well as the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the Spanish league, and everyone else in the world.
On whether it's too cold at night in Qatar - Yes, it gets cold, but not colder than here, for example. There's no problem playing.
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.