Despite having wrapped up, for all intents and purposes, the defense of the Bundesliga title, and being one step away from getting to the third consecutive DFB-Pokal final (which would be a German record), it all comes down to one game to determine whether this entire season will be a bitter disappointment. Fail to turn around the 1-3 loss from the first leg against FC Porto, thereby failing to get out of the Champions League quarterfinals, and Bayern Munich's season will be labeled a failure.
Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, April 20, 2015
So, this is it. There's no talk about the last game against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. There's no looking forward to the Bundesliga game against Hertha BSC, which could mean the clinching of the domestic title. It's all about the return leg against FC Porto, and such is the nature of Champions League fixtures, because it's simply considered the ultimate club competition.
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On which players will be available to play - (Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm were both out sick over the weekend, while Juan Bernat took a clumsy challenge to his ankle, and was kept out of the second half of the Hoffenheim game, and Franck Ribery is still recovering from an ankle injury) In the last months, I've always decided on a lineup about an hour before the game. I don't know how it will look tomorrow. Philipp is back, and Basti can train with the team for the first time today. The more players we have available, the better it is for us (no word on Bernat, who missed today's final practice).
On which coach has the advantage from knowing the other - (Julen Lopetegui and Pep were teammates in Barcelona during their playing days) He's a great guy, Julen is an exceptional person. I enjoy his work in Porto, he's very good. But I don't really know him as a coach, I didn't attend his training sessions, I wasn't in the locker room. He did a great job with the U-21 in Spain and in Porto, so I am happy for him.
On whether Franck Ribery will be on the roster - Today, I will talk to the doctor, but yesterday, my feeling was that he would not be able to play. I don't think so, but I will see him today. He's been hurt seven weeks, but who knows, maybe there will be a huge change.
On which doctor Pep plans on talking to about Ribery (Müller-Wohlfahrt or Braun) - I will talk to our doctor, the one that is at the Säbener Straße (you didn't think the reporters weren't going to try to get some more questions in about the highly publicized rift with the long-time team doctor, did you?).
On the unusual challenge for Pep of having to make up a two-goal deficit - Of course it's a huge challenge, but every day at a big club is a challenge. I've already said that the last two months have been the biggest challenge for me as a coach, I've learned a lot, how important heart and passion are in football. I am here to support my players. I am not here to do a lot of interviews. I am obligated to do this, but my work, my job, is to support my players. I saw how these players fought, ran, supported each other, and that's the best victory for me. I know which club I'm at, I know it's not enough to just win the German championship, I know winning the [DFB] Pokal like last season is not enough. It's Bayern Munich, like Barcelona or Real Madrid, other big clubs of the world, only the triple is enough.
On how important Karl Heinz Rummenigge is for Pep, and whether tomorrow's game will influence his future plans - Rummenigge is one of the two or three most important people at the club, after Markus Hörwick (glances over at the media director, and smiles). My future is, practice on Wednesday, after the game. Thursday is a day off, Friday we have training again, and then try to win against Hertha Berlin, in order to win the Meisterschaft again. And, of course, next year, I'll be here, that's my future.
On how he decides the lineup, gut feel or head - Normally, it's the gut, because you already know the players, their qualities, and what you need for every game. But, it's probably half and half, sometimes gut, sometimes head. Lately, it's been very simple. When I have the full roster, I have problems getting everyone playing time, but not lately.
On whether he would share what he said to the players in the locker room after the Hoffenheim game - (There were reports of a very emotional speech to the players) No (long pause, and then he smiles). That stays in the locker room. In general, I told them how proud I am of them. It doesn't matter what happens now, or until we go on vacation in the summer, what they've done is outstanding. At this club, it's not enough to get a title, or qualify for the Champions League like at some other clubs, but here you have to win a triple. I will never forget what they have done, they will always be my heroes.
On the recent criticism after the Porto loss - That's normal at a big club. When you win, you are a genius and a great tactician, when you lose, you have a lot of problems. That's the same here, in Spain, in Italy, in England. It's not an issue for me, it's part of the job.
On whether he feels excitement for the big games - Of course, it's Champions League, the reason you coach at a big club, to be here for the players. Same for the game next week against Dortmund [DFB-Pokal semifinal], and next Saturday, to clinch the German championship. I am happy to be here. I know what to expect if we don't make it to the CL semifinal. I will accept the responsibility like I did last season. My only concern is if I don't see my players running and fighting for each other. It doesn't matter where you play, Bremen, Hoffenheim, Paderborn or in the cup in Munster, even after winning the World Cup, that's the hardest thing, not just in football, to keep that level. Of course, it was a shame to make those mistakes in Porto. In the end, they were our mistakes, and we have to accept that. We're human, we make mistakes. Sure, we could just play long balls out of the back, but then we could lose the ball, and now they're attacking more. I am convinced that our playing style is why we've only given up 13 goals over the whole BL season. Granted, we have to play more with more risk tomorrow to make up for the first game.
On the impact of Arjen Robben on the team, while he's hurt - Arjen is always here. I would like him on the field, not just at training. We are at this point, in the Bundesliga and the Champions League, because of Arjen Robben. We had many problems, and injuries, and he would always score the first or second goal. We miss his one-on-one skill a lot. But he's always at Säbener Straße, fighting to come back as quickly as possible (he was seen doing fitness drills outside today).
On when Pep last talked to Thomas Tuchel, and is he looking forward to coaching against him - (Thomas Tuchel was announced this week as the successor to Jürgen Klopp as the coach of BVB Dortmund) I met him last season, here and in Mainz. At the beginning of this season, we had dinner together here in Munich, but we haven't talked since. But I congratulate him on the new job.
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.