Bayern Munich officially stamped their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a second leg, 3-1 victory over Besiktas in Istanbul on Wednesday; a slightly less convincing outing than the 5-0 win at the Allianz Arena in leg 1. Jupp Heynckes used the occasion (leg 2) to make some rotations to his starting eleven, as Bayern could officially clinch the Bundesliga title this weekend with a win against RB Leipzig. With trophy number 1 of Bayern’s treble pursuit all but in the bag, Arturo Vidal admits that competition for places in the squad helps his side stay sharp and fully focused.
Speaking to kicker (via Bundesliga.com), Vidal emphasized the importance of making the most of the opportunities you’re given, as the competition for a place in Heynckes’s starting eleven is always stiff:
When you’re at a club as big as Bayern, you know everyone in the squad wants to play and is looking for a place in the team, so you must always try to do your job on the pitch as well as possible so that the team wins. That sharpens your senses.
He had another strong outing in leg 2 vs. Besiktas:
Arturo Vidal against Besiktas:— Bayern mania (@Bayern_mania) March 14, 2018
- Minutes: (90)
- Touches: (84)
- Shots: (1)
- Passes: (66)
- Pass accuracy: (89%)
- Long balls: (5)
- Tackles: (4)
- Interceptions: (4)
- Clearance: (2) pic.twitter.com/sf6Ms9ITbO
Although he hasn’t scored in the competition, Vidal has featured in 7 of Bayern’s 8 Champions League matches this season, having missed only the opening group stage match against RSC Anderlecht through a red card suspension from last season. He’s been an integral part of Bayern’s success, especially after Heynckes took over; the only two times he hasn’t featured under Heynckes were because of an illness (vs. Mainz) and a cumulative yellow card suspension (vs. Wolfsburg), respectively.
On a potential reunion with Pep Guardiola in the Champions League
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are in absolutely sensational form this season, and are (arguably) favorites to make it to this year’s Champions League final. A potential reunion with the former Bayern manager, Vidal admits, is something he’s relishing, suggesting there are striking similarities between the two sides:
That would be something great, something special. The teams resemble each other in their way of playing. We’re not afraid of any opponent, that’s the most important thing.
At this stage of the competition, Vidal believes any opponent would prove to be a difficult challenge, but that Bayern have what it takes to beat any of them:
Barcelona and Real Madrid are always among the contenders, and Manchester City are playing well this year. Liverpool have also impressed me. If we reach the quarter-finals, which I think we will, there won’t be an easy opponent. But we have a strong team that can stand up to any opponent.
On last year’s disappointing Champions League exit vs. Real Madrid
The manner in which Bayern were eliminated from the Champions League last season left a bitter taste in Vidal’s mouth. In the second leg of the quarter-finals, Vidal was sent off after a second yellow card for what appeared to be a clean challenge on Madrid’s Marco Asensio; he looked to have gotten all ball, but Asensio made a meal of it. Starting the second half, Bayern were on the ascendancy after to going up 2-1 in the 78th minute, which made Vidal’s sending off just 6 minutes later all the more disappointing. Having scored Bayern’s lone goal in the first leg from that tie, his sending off in leg 2, the Chilean admits, was rather unlucky:
That exit to Madrid hurts me and all of us. We were at least as good as them, even with a man less, and we were simply unlucky at the end. We hope that it’ll go better this time and we can win the cup with big ears.
He realizes that some luck will need to be in Bayern’s favor this time around, especially if they want to secure another treble:
It’s really great to be champions. But we’re talking about Bayern. This club needs more trophies, that’s the most important thing at such a big club. The league, the DFB Cup, also the Champions League. I would like to win all three with this club. I hope it’ll all come together this year. To do that, we need a little more luck than we had when we just failed to progress past Real Madrid last year.