FC Bayern Munich will be looking to break out of their mini-funk, after losing the first game after the winter break, and tying the next one, having to play a man down after 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, February 6th, 2015
If you had bet money on the journalists bringing up Jerome Boateng's red card, and Pep's encounters with the officials, you would be getting paid right now!
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On how confident Pep is that the team will improve, and take 3 points again - It's the third game of the Rückrunde, and we will try to win the game.
On whether he is starting to worry about the personnel situation (many injuries, and Jerome Boateng's suspension), especially on defense - No, we have 18 players. If we have problems in the defensive side, it's a problem for all of us, not just the defense.
On what to expect from Stuttgart, who started the Rückrunde the same as Bayern - Their playing style is similar to the other teams. We have to focus on the quality of the Stuttgart players. Every team has their own players, and we need to analyze and know them, and see what their quality is, and of course, we've watched them.
On whether Jerome Boateng's suspension is too harsh - Yes, a little. The only problem is, Jerome came in too late. It wasn't an aggressive foul, he was just a little late. That kind of foul can happen anywhere on the field, in the midfield, or somewhere else, but it happened in the penalty box. That's why it was a red card, we had to play for 70 minutes without him, they got a penalty. No discussion, it was a red card, no discussion, it was a penalty kick. But a three game suspension is too much.
On whether the mood in the team has changed due to the unusual situation of Bayern not winning twice in a row - No. You have to realize that this is normal. It's not normal to win the Bundesliga without losing a game. Winning the Bundesliga by 25 points, that's not normal. One loss, one draw, that's normal.
On whether not winning three games in a row is normal too - It can happen. Or four. Or five. It can happen. When we play well for 90 minutes, our quality is high. But the other players have quality too. Of course, we can also win (said with a bit of a smirk).
On whether the winter break was bad for the team - I don't know. If we analyze the Wolfsburg game, we can say that we weren't good, we didn't control the counterattacks, we had problems with our long balls, second balls, we didn't have enough possession, because with our possession we control our playing style. But against Schalke, you can't forget that we played a man down for 70 minutes, and we allowed one scoring chance (the corner kick that led to Schalke's 1-1 equalizer). We did a good job, we played well, the mood of the team was the same as in the Hinrunde. I am very satisfied with our performance against Schalke.
On the drop in goal scoring opportunities in the Rückrunde, compared to the Hinrunde - It's only two games. We allowed five goals, and if you ask me why, I say, it's football. In the second game, in the last 18 minutes, we did great, we had two or three clear chances, and, of course, 10 against 11 is a different kind of game.
On his antics on the sidelines in the Schalke game - Normally, I need to stay in the technical zone, I have to. But, sometimes, during the game, I don't notice where the zone is. I'm very sorry, I am serious about those kind of things, I apologize to the referees for everything, I know that's not proper behavior. I also know that the other teams aren't happy, they're asking for me to get banned to the stands, I also apologize to the other teams in the Bundesliga. I hope it won't happen again in the future (anyone want to take a bet on that?).
On whether he enjoys a bonus (special privileges) with the referees for being Pep - Maybe. Maybe I deserve to be sent to the stands. I hope that doesn't happen in the future. (This question causes some confusion, as Pep first answers that maybe he does, before Markus Hörwick quickly chimes in, claiming a misunderstanding due to the language barrier on Pep's part, and then asks Pep the same question again in English. The second time, Pep answers differently). I don't know. In Germany, the rules are the same for everyone, so I don't know. (I'm sure Hörwick is a little happier with that answer, but probably would have liked a definitive "no", because he already saw the PR nightmare looming).
On what he is planning to change to curb his excursions out of the technical zone - (Pep shows some uncharacteristic irritation) Listen, I have already said I apologize, I'm very, very sorry. I am a coach, I focus on our playing style. If it becomes a big deal for the referees, if there is a fine, a red card, if I get banned to the stands, maybe I will improve, but I'm very sorry. I don't mean to do it, but sometimes that's the way I am. I am Catalan, sometimes we're more emotional. I am very, very emotional, and sometimes I obviously need to control that. But I am a young coach, I'm only 44 years old, and I've only been a coach for 5 years, and it's something I can improve on.
On whether it's harder for him to play in negative temperatures - I don't think that's the reason we didn't win the game. That happened last season, at this time of year, it's always cold in Germany. The team and I need to adjust to it.
On Franck Ribery's and Rafinha's injury situation - They're much better. I think they can rejoin the team on Monday.
On whether Pep is where he wants to be, or is it still a work in progress - Boys, we've played two games in three days. I said we could lose, and we didn't have a good game. It happens to the other big teams in Europe too. But when everyone reads and writes that it's easy, the second team can win, Bayern has to win, the Bundesliga is boring, something has to be done, because Bayern always wins, that's bad for football, that's ok. But, it's football, and you can lose. In Barcelona, I won a lot of titles, and sometimes, once in a while, we lost a game, and that's ok. But, with big teams, when that happens, a lot of people are surprised, because they think that they can't lose. Sorry, we can lose, because the opponents are good too. Sometimes we'll have a bad afternoon or a bad evening, but I am sure, sooner or later, we will get back to our usual level.
On some people saying that teams have found a way to beat Pep - Yes, that's good. [Eric Maxim] Choupo-Moting said before our game against Schalke that it's great that Bayern lost a game, that gives them confidence, that's ok. The difference in the way play is, we can play to protect our 8-point lead, or we can play to get three points, that's the big difference in our heads, in our mentality. If we play to defend what we already accomplished, it means we don't have the hunger in our belly anymore. If we play to win the three points, maybe we'll be able to get back to our level. I said at the last press conference, it's impossible to win for 11 months straight. It's never been done at Bayern, I was talking to Markus [Hörwick], and I asked him has Bayern ever done that, he said "no". I may be a good coach, but I'm not that good.
On whether Bayern is susceptible to the counter attack - Listen, 100% of the teams in Germany want to attack our backline. If you analyze their game, it's turnover, counterattack. Last season and up until now, we did a great job of controlling the counter. In the one game, we didn't do a good job, because we used too many long balls, which didn't allow us to control the second ball, which allowed our opponent to run, and that's always dangerous, regardless of the team. Our goal is to control that, we've done it, and we will do it again.
On the biggest challenger in recent years, Borussia Dortmund - Nothing about Borussia Dortmund. That's not my issue. I'm not talking about BVB anymore. Sorry.
On coaching legend Udo Lattek - (FC Bayern legend Udo Lattek passed away last Sunday at the age of 80) I feel bad for his wife and his family. I know how important he was for football in Germany, for Barcelona and Spain as well. He was a revolutionary coach. I never met him, but I've heard from people who knew him, that he was very nice.
On the lack of competition inside the team, due to the many injuries and the suspension of Boateng - For two years, we've never had a full roster. When you've won everything over the last few years, like this team has, you need the internal competition, they have to fight for playing time. Last season, and especially this season, that hasn't happened. It's very hard. I said before the winter camp in Qatar, the Rückrunde will be very tough, because we have Champions League, and we need the internal competition. If a player doesn't play well, but he knows that I have to play him the next game, it's a bit of a problem. But, we've dealt with this situation well so far. And the players that will be on the roster tomorrow, they have to play as well as they can, so that we can try to win and play our game.
On the possibility of Holger Badstuber playing or even starting and playing 90 minutes - That's good question. I think I will know the answer after he plays for 90 minutes (a little laugh). Right now, I don't know, because it's been a long time. We can't forget that he's been hurt for two years. He played in the first game of the Hinrunde, he played great against Schalke, and then he got injured again. But he is looking good, and his confidence is getting better every day and every training.
On being the favorite in the game against Stuttgart - We're always the favorite, whether it's Stuttgart, or Schalke or Wolfsburg. What the players accomplished last season, they've earned the favorite label. But, when the referee starts the game, we have to show it. It wouldn't be the first time that a team at the bottom of the standings beat us.
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.