Forget the standings, the fact that one team is easily leading the league, while the other one is recovering from a nightmare of a Hinrunde, and is currently in tenth place, it's the modern-day Klassiker among two of the heavyweights in Germany. It's Dortmund vs Bayern, and everyone will be watching.
FC Bayern Press Conference, April 3, 2015
If you look at the standings from just the Rückrunde, the two teams are separated by just one point, with Dortmund in fourth while Bayern are in third, so current form is very close between the two protagonists. The recent injury scourge was obviously a topic today, with Bayern losing a large chunk of their firepower in Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, and David Alaba on the injured list. Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On whether the roster is deep enough to replace Arjen Robben and David Alaba - No. Without those players, including Javi Martinez and Thiago, we're not as strong. But it's not just Bayern Munich, it happens to all the other clubs in the world. As a coach, you can't expect for everything to be perfect all the time. It's happened to me as a player and as a coach. With everyone fit, we're strong, but now we're a little weaker, but there's nobody to blame and there are no excuses, and if we don't win, it's our fault.
On who will be missing in Dortmund, and who can play - Arjen Robben, David Alaba and Franck Ribery won't be there. Holger Badstuber (Pep always calls him Badstu, which cracks me up every time, for some reason), we don't know, we'll see in today's training. Javi isn't available, but Thiago might get some minutes (woohooo!!!!), and Lahm might get some minutes too (wooohooo again!!!).
On how Holger Badstuber is doing - He came back from the national team with a slight problem, but it's not serious. With his history over the last two years, we're being cautious. We'll see at the final training, but we don't want another injury.
On what Pep needs to come up with to avoid games like against Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg - Every game is different. Gladbach's defensive tactics are completely different from BVB. Our approach on defense and offense has to be different than against Gladbach. Playing without Robben, we have to play differently, I have to adapt to the quality of my players, and that will happen tomorrow.
On where Philipp Lahm will play (on defense, or in a double pivot) - I don't have anything set in stone. I have some ideas in my head, but, they're in my head (why do reporters even bother asking him for lineup information?).
On Pep's thoughts on Alaba's injury - We already had to deal with David's absence earlier in the season for two or three months. He's a player that can play anywhere, we can play him in a three-man back line, four-man back line, left defense, midfield, with three central defenders, even with four central defenders. We're losing a player that can help us in all those scenarios, but he's not there and we have to wait for him to return.
On the effect of Jerome Boateng's personal issues influencing his play - (This week, Boateng's ex-fiancee, who is also the mother of his four-year old twin girls, has accused the Bayern player of domestic abuse during their time together. This coincides with an ongoing custody battle between the two.) He's an excellent professional, he was great in training the last two days. Of course, football players have a private life, but at Bayern Munich, everyone, not only the coach, stands behind their players, and give them support. But, he's ok. It's a huge challenge for us coaches these months, I am excited and super motivated for these crucial games, because the opponents are very good. We have issues, and I have to think about it, and talk to my players, but I am sure, even with these problems, we can do it.
On whether this is the toughest phase of Pep's time at Bayern - Yes (no hesitation). Absolutely. But I've never looked to assign blame or to find an excuse. This is football, this is life, and I have a lot of confidence in my players. They have to follow me, but with this deep roster, we can do it.
On people saying he is the world's best coach - (he interrupts the reporter before he's finished his question) I am not trying to be the world's best coach, I'm not the best coach. I've said that before, that's not why I'm here. I'm here to help my players, to win games, and to analyze why we won or didn't win. That's my goal, working for this great club. That wasn't the case in Barcelona either. I am a good coach, because I work for a great club, with great players. My future doesn't depend on my situation, player injuries, wins or losses. Normally, when we have more issues, I am more motivated, because if this job was easy, someone else would be sitting here.
On whether the game against Dortmund still a Classico, even though the opponent is in 10th place - In the last years, yes. The two clubs have won the last five Bundesliga titles between them. In Spain, Real Madrid against Barcelona has always been the Classico, but here, sometimes it's Bayern and Gladbach, or Bayern and someone else.
On what can be expected from Thiago - (Thiago has been training with the team for a few weeks, and was on the roster for the last game) With Philipp Lahm, and Thiago, the team needs to help them. We can't expect them to immediately help us, after being injured for a year, or two to three months, in Lahm's case.
On whether Lahm can be in the starting lineup - He can. Or maybe he can't (followed by a little smirk. When will they learn?).
On what is missing from Bayern's game with the absence of Robben, Ribery and Alaba - We lose their personalities, and their qualities as football players. Arjen Robben is an outstanding one-on-one player who scores goals, and so is Ribery. We don't have the same type of one-on-one replacements, so we have to adjust our style without them. David doesn't have the same one-on-one skills, but he's strong playing forward, playing back, he's fast, and has heart (taps his chest). We've had problems for two years now, players out for a long time, but we've always moved forward, and continued on. It's unfortunate for the players that we are going into an important part of the season, fighting in Europe, playing in the Pokal against Leverkusen, and, of course, trying to win in the Bundesliga. We need the whole roster, but we don't have it, so the players need to understand that we need more from them. They need to give their best performance, produce at 100%. We can't forget, after the World Cup in Brazil, it wasn't easy for Bayern Munich. In the past, it was tough, but we've done a great job, we've put up a lot of fight. The next game is the most important, every game is a final.
On what Dortmund's tactic will be, and will it help Bayern to play against a more offensive team - They will play forward. Yes, it's good for everyone, the spectators, everyone. We need do a better job than against Gladbach. My goal is always to dominate, and build up play well. In my experience, Dortmund under my colleague Jürgen Klopp, they always attack, press in the offensive end, and that is what I expect tomorrow. I think that's good, it will be a great game.
On whether Pep is interested in the Bayern II game on Monday, and will he watch - (Bayern II plays in the local derby against the reserves of 1860, in a showdown of second vs third in the Regionalliga Bayern) Of course I'm interested in the reserves, and also the U19 and U17, we often have some of the young players training with us. But, I have a lot of work to do to prepare for Leverkusen, so I don't know if I will have time to watch.
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.