It seems like an eternity ago that Bayern played its last competitive match, but the long winter break is over, and the Reds will travel north to Hamburg, to face off against the Red Shorts, a team they have handled quite easily in recent times (the last home win for HSV against Bayern dates back to 2009).
Pep Guardiola sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, January 21st, 2016
OK, spoiler alert: Not a single question his contract extension, or even where he is going.
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On how the preparations went - Good. Perfect.
On whether the three days off were too many - Three days, during the entire time. That's not a lot. To practice well, they need regeneration time, time off. Quality, not quantity. It's not about the legs, it's about the head, the legs, technical, tactical, relationship with the coach, with the club, playing together. The universal theme, together, is good. Maybe us trainers made a big mistake, but you need time off, especially at a big club, where you have played a thousand million games in the last thousand million days (that made no sense at all), and they played national teams. It's about quality, less minutes, more quality.
On why there was only one friendly - I like friendlies for practice, but in the Hinrunde the last couple of years we only had 14, 15 players, in Qatar as well. I didn't want to play a lot of friendlies with these players. I decided we wanted to do more practice, work on game concepts. After the Hamburg game, we have nine days before our next game against Hoffenheim (Bayern plays on Sunday next week, and there are no Champions League or DFB Pokal games scheduled until February), and then we have some more time off (six days before playing Leverkusen). So we made the decision, and this was a decision by the club, too. We could have stayed in Qatar longer, but I like when the players are home with their families. There's less injuries this way. Unfortunately, Rafinha got injured in Karlsruhe, but David Alaba returned, and Medhi Benatia, Franck Ribery, Mario Götze and others are in the last stages of their way back to joining the team. There are coaches that train every day of winter training camp, twice a day. That's fine. If they win, that's good, if they don't win, it's too much practice. We've done a good job so far in this season, I think quality is better than quantity.
On how Pep is handling the pressure of being expected to win the Champions League, and join the company of Jupp Heynckes and Ottmar Hitzfeld - Good, perfect. We may, may, win the Champions League, but even if we win it, I will never be in the same category as Hitzfeld and Heynckes. Even if the team wins it with me, Jupp Heynckes and Ottmar Hitzfeld will always be more important to the club, because of the time they spent here, they were German, I'm Catalan. So, the pressure? (shrugs his shoulders) I've known from day one where I am, in Barcelona or here, we have to win. I've said before, my performance will be judged on how many Champions League and other titles I win. That's ok, I accept that role and the pressure. My goal is a completely different one.
On Dortmund being a challenger, despite the foregone conclusion that Bayern are the champions - Are we German champions? Why do we need to fly to Hamburg then, if we're German champions? BVB is the fifth best team in Europe right now. This season, they are among the top five teams in Europe, the way they play, the roster, the coach (Pep has a close relationship to Thomas Tuchel). For that reason, I didn't expect an eight point lead, but we still have a lot of games to play to defend the championship.
On whether it was a blessing in disguise, losing to Karlsruhe - Right now, I don't know what the level of the team is. We need two or three games to see where we stand. After the one friendly, or even after the Hamburg game, it's not ideal to determine our level. We need a little more time to see that.
On Arjen Robben's and David Alaba's fitness - Arjen is fit, so is Alaba, both are available to play.
On changes in tactics against teams that defend deep - (Both Robert Lewandowski and Holger Badstuber mentioned practicing new tactics during the winter camp, with a new approach to beating teams that park the bus) We worked on our build up play, our pressing, our style of play. If you play against Ingolstadt, with their attacking pressing, our tactic is completely different from playing Eintracht Frankfurt, who played with 11 players in the penalty box. We talked about this subject. For example, Karlsruhe also had a lot of players in the box, we have to be able to react to this situation. There are different scenarios, and we worked on that.
On whether Pep prefers teams that don't park the bus - Doesn't matter to me, it depends on my coaching colleague. Of course, personally, I like it when they try to attack, because it's good for the spectators. When both teams want to win, it's nice for the spectators.
On how the return of Douglas Costa affects play - He's not bad. He is available. He plays three or four positions. In the Hinrunde, up until he was injured, he was very good.
On whether Pep was surprised at how good Costa is - I think you guys were surprised (the reporter agrees). We played against him five times, I saw him a little more than my dear journalists. We analyzed him, critiqued him, and got to know him. It's good for Bayern Munich, I like him. Top, top player for this club for the years to come.
On whether the young players are not motivated enough - (Holger Badstuber criticized the young players in his press conference yesterday, claiming that they were too complacent) I've met a lot of young players, lots of quality, but with a catastrophic mentality. But the same applies to some older players. It depends on the individual. The young players know, and so do the older ones, if they are not ready to go, they won't be playing at a big club next season.
On whether the young guys that Pep had so far weren't that motivated - No. Playing at Bayern Munich is not easy, my friend. (The reporter brings up Badstuber, Müller and Alaba) But those guys are top quality. For example, right now, we have seven forwards. At another time, they may have only had three. The youth players would have more opportunity to play. Maybe the quality of the forwards wasn't as good, when Müller came up, so he got his chance.
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.