After the dismantling of Shakhtar Donetsk mid-week in the Champions League, it is back to the daily Bundesliga grind for FC Bayern München, as the Rekordmeister travels north to play Werder Bremen. Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, March 13, 2015
It's a classic Nord-Süd duel, against the team that has beaten Bayern more than any other German club (26 defeats), but it's been a while since Werder Bremen have been competitive against Bayern. In the last eight Bundesliga matches, the Munich club has dominated their former rivals, winning all eight contests, while scoring a whopping 35 goals.
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On the effect of missing Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben missing the game due to injuries - We lose some one-on-one quality. Other than Mario Götze in the penalty box, we don't have any other players of that quality. But, we can still attack with other means, and that's what will happen tomorrow.
On Bremen's general manager Thomas Eichin's public battle with Matthias Sammer, and his claims that the referees favor both Bayern and Pep - (This week, Bremen's GM made public statements about favoritism towards Bayern, which elicited a sharp response from Matthias Sammer) This subject doesn't interest me. Football, please. I am a coach, I talk about tactics and football.
On how long Philipp Lahm could play - (The captain was able to join the team in practice this week, and even sat on the bench against Donetsk) Not a lot of minutes. If his coach decides he can play, he will play limited minutes. He's not fit yet. He's healthy, but, right now, he's not ready for more. After this game, we have one more game on Sunday against Borussia Mönchengladbach, and then we have a two-week break before the next game, after which he'll be able to play more. But, that's normal.
On whether the tactics will change with Ribéry and Robben missing - Tactics stay the same. Go forward, control the counter attacks, control the game through our possession. Of course, the tactics depend on the quality of our players. We play differently when Franck and Arjen are on the outside, or playing inside, or sitting at home drinking red wine. But the idea behind it is the always the same, have one extra player in the middle, control possession, and attack.
On statistics saying that Bayern isn't good without Ribéry and Robben - Well, we'll try to refute the statistics tomorrow.
On whether Claudio Pizarro will get to play against his former club - (The Peruvian played for Werder Bremen for six seasons, in two separate stints) Claudio Pizarro is the best striker we have in the penalty box, if he gets the ball, it's a goal. But, he had some muscular issues two days ago (the Bayern website reported that Pizarro stayed in Munich, and will not be available against Bremen). He's had a lot of small problems this season with his muscles.
On how Uli Hoeness is doing – (Today marks one year since the club legend's conviction on tax evasion) He's here every day, working in the youth department, and sometimes we see each other. He's good.
On when Pep expects Thiago Alcântara to play again – (Thiago participated in some of the team practice this week, before continuing his rehab) I would love to know when he can play with the team again. But he was injured for a year, we will have to listen to his knee. Yesterday was the first time practicing with the team, but without contact, he's not ready for that. It's similar to Lahm, we have a two week break, he may be ready to play after that.
On Joachim Löw wanting to call up Holger Badstuber for the upcoming national team games - That's a subject for Jogi Löw, I have a lot of respect for him. The national team coaches won't do anything detrimental to Badstuber, he will talk to the national team doctor, who is also our doctor [Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt]. No problem.
On whether getting a callup will be good for Badstuber's psyche - I think Holger considers himself a football player now, not an injured player. He played some Bundesliga games, played in the Champions League. I think Holger's mental state is perfect. Playing for the national team is the greatest thing for a player, and I think, sooner or later, Holger will return to the national squad. When? That's a subject for the national team coach.
On whether Pep is happy that Matthias Sammer handles matters for him, like the situation with Eichin - I am a coach, I focus on my team and my club. Matthias Sammer always defends this club. He defends me and the players. He's always done that, and he will do it in the future as well. I am the coach, I can think about the game, and, three days later, the next game, and so on, that is my goal.
On respecting and preparing for the free kicks of Zlatko Junuzović – Sure, same as [Hakan] Çalhanoğlu in Leverkusen. You can't imagine how good Douglas Costa, or Alex Teixera, or [Yaroslav] Rakytskiy at Shakhtar Donetsk are at free kicks. The most important thing is to control the game through our possession, and if we do that, the opponent has far fewer opportunities from those situations. Normally, if we are allowing a lot of free kicks and corners, we have a problem. But when we control the game, when we know where the open man is, our pressing is good, and we are playing in their penalty box, not in ours, then we don't have issues.
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.