Coming off a scoreless draw against Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, FC Bayern's schedule now goes back to mid-week games, this time in the DFB Pokal against second division VfL Bochum, who are making a run at the top of the table, trying to get into the promotion spots. They haven't allowed a goal in the last 418 minutes of official games, and knocked down a couple of Bundesliga teams in friendlies during their winter break.
Bayern Munich, meanwhile, are looking to make their seventh consecutive semifinal appearance in the German cup competition, and, of course, want to keep their dream of a triple alive.
Pep Guardiola sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, February 9th, 2016
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On what to expect from Pep's team in the "final" against Bochum - [DFB] Pokal is just one game, that's why it's a final. Their team won against Leverkusen (2-1) and Gladbach (5-2), and against one of the strongest teams in the second division, like Freiburg (2-0 win in the first league game after the winter break). Last season we played against them, with the same coach, during our winter break before our first game with Wolfsburg. Very good attacking pressing, almost man-to-man, very aggressive. Good buildup play, they want to use the goalkeeper, a very difficult game. I trust my team very much, I hope it will be fine.
On the status of Franck Ribery, Rafinha, Mario Götze, and Arturo Vidal, and whether they will travel to Bochum - (All of these players returned to team practice recently) Rafinha for sure, Arturo I think as well. He didn't practice yesterday, but I think he will be there tomorrow. Regarding Franck and Mario, I have to talk to the doctors and physios, and afterwards, we'll decide. Mario has had more training, Franck has only had one, so that might be a little early. But it's big news that he's back training with the team.
On Serdar Tasci's status - He was able to train yesterday. The only problem with Tasci is his physical conditioning because they had a lot of time off in Russia, but he's ok in his head (I think he meant mentally, but it applies to Tasci's recent concussion too), that's the most important thing. I will decide after practice.
On what Pep expects from Bochum tactically - Very aggressive, not waiting. For example, in Hoffenheim, they sat back deep, not this team. They'll be a little like Leverkusen, coming forward, Gegenpressing. They have strong players in the air, they have fast players, and quality in the middle too. In my first or second season, we played against this coach (Gertjan Verbeek) with Nürnberg, and he's a coach with a lot of intensity. His playing style is interesting.
On whether Pep is satisfied with his offense, considering the lack of goals recently - Football is not about the forward playing well or not, or playing with a three-man or a four-man backline. What we have to do is create these scoring chances, and sooner or later it will happen.
On having concerns that the field is not in good shape - (Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber raised the issue that the field might not be as perfect as they're used to) No. We have to adapt to it. If the big teams, the big clubs, are looking for excuses, then they don't deserve to win the titles (so, shut your yaps, Thomas and Holger). Both teams have to play on the same field.
On whether Pep has consulted with Hermann Gerland more than usual, since it is his home club - (Assistant coach Gerland was born and grew up in Bochum, and spent his entire active career as a player with VfL Bochum, and also coached the team) I talk to Hermann Gerland about every opponent, about the players. He informs me about who is fast, who is slow, who to pay attention to. Of course, we also talked about Bochum.
On whether Pep is interested in the personality of the opposing coach - Normally, the character and playing style of a team reflects the personality of the coach. I've always thought that teams that play Angriffspressing (attacking pressing), aggressive, going forward, when that happens, the opponent has a big personality. If you watch Bochum last season, or Nürnberg two or three seasons ago, it's the same team, idea, spirit, motivation, passion. Of course, I'm always curious about what the other coaches will do, to be able to learn. I'm only 44 years old, I have a lot to learn.
On whether Pep is planning long-term with Joshua Kimmich on defense - At the moment, yes. I don't have any other solution. Rafinha can be used too, but I don't have a lot of alternatives. He did very well, not just against Hoffenheim, but also against Leverkusen, against Chicharito and Stefan Kiessling. It's not just about individual duels. I told him, against Kiessling, in the air, don't even bother jumping, you will lose. Forget it. It's about interpreting the line, pushing it up or back. His qualities as a midfielder, his buildup play, two-on-one, finding the open man. He is good at switching the play. He has good conditioning, he's fast. I've never seen him once in training hanging his head, he's always positive, concentrated, and focused. That's why he can play that position, but, of course, when we have more central defenders, he will have to move back to his position... or not. Maybe he will continue playing in central defense, because his level of play in Leverkusen was very high.
On whether Pep is concerned about a Bochum side that could be too aggressive- No, I meant aggressive in a good sense. When the head is fast, there are less injuries. When the opponent is coming, the ball is gone. When that happens, maybe there are less injuries. But, the intensity [of Bochum] was meant in a good sense. Leverkusen were aggressive too, with Kiessling and Karim Bellarabi, that's football (well, except for those studs-up challenges that should have seen a yellow card).
On whether Robert Lewandowski is in his strongest form since coming to Bayern - He is one of the best, most professional players I have ever met. 24 hours a day, he eats, sleeps and trains for his job. He is always there, never injured, because he is focused on being in good conditioning (is that a dig at the others?). Of course, the first few months are always hard, for a player or a coach, at a new club, getting used to a lot of things. But, from the beginning, I've been very happy to work with him, and his performance.
On whether the team has adjusted to Pep's system, based on less distance being run by the club, on average - (The reporter quotes statistics that Bayern ran an average of 115km a game in Pep's first season, 113km in the second, and now "only" runs 110km on average) In football, you have to run. The question is, did we run well? Running for the sake of running, that's a problem. Normally, when you have more possession, more scoring chances, allowed less counter attacks, and had more control, of course you run less.
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.