The second half of the Bundesliga season is fast approaching and Bayern Munich have completed their annual winter training camp in Doha, Qatar. In a recent interview with Sport1, Thomas Müller highlighted the positive team spirit and intensive work rate put forth by the squad during the six-day camp and also previewed the title race to come with Borussia Dortmund in the Rückrunde.
Everything about the six-day camp at the Aspire Academy was as close to perfect as possible according the Muller:
I can’t remember any training camp where the morale and work ethic were not good. Everything was wonderful this time, too. Normally, there’s always a kind of upbeat feeling in a training camp before the beginning of the Rückrunde. The weather was nice, the conditions here were super. That makes it fun to play soccer. We worked hard, but the other teams definitely also do that.
Personally, he’s pleased that his body is able to handle the heavy workload during such a physically demanding camp, though he admitted that he’s far from the biggest player on the team:
For me it’s positive that I have a body that can handle a training camp like this and the hard work in training. I’ve had luck with that. I’m not the heaviest guy, after all. That doesn’t help me out in sometimes in one-on-ones, but my body can take such extreme training work really well.
The team’s sense of solidarity, he continued, is very strong, and everyone is fully behind Niko Kovac despite the criticism he faced during Bayern’s slump in the first half of the season:
The collaboration is very good. Not least because of the upswing in our playing and the results at the end of the Hinrunde. Everyone feels it, and obviously the coach does, too. We want to keep riding this wave of good feelings. You can tell with everyone that there’s not a trace of the doldrums from November left in anybody.
Looking forward, Bayern still have some ground to make up if they want to catch Dormtund at the top of the table by the end of the season. With the way their rivals have been playing, it could prove to be one of the tightest title races within the past five years and it will be no easy task for Bayern to leapfrog them. If and when Dortmund slip, Muller promised that Bayern will be right there to close the gap when the opportunity presents itself, but that his side are just focused on taking care of business themselves:
Dortmund only needs to know that we’ll be there if they weaken. I’m not of the opinion that we should make grand declarations of war. We should take care that we start the Rückrunde on the right foot. In my experience, I know one thing very well.
Bayern are used to looking down at second place from the top of the table, but this time the Bundesliga table(s) has been turned. For Dortmund, Muller insisted, it could play into Bayern’s hand that they’re the chasers instead of the chased, since Lucien Favre’s men will have to cope with Bayern constantly breathing down their necks. :
Under Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund once got over 80 points in a season in second place. I still remember how unpleasant it was for us then, when we always had a lead of five or six points, won a lot but still always saw how successful Dortmund was too and kept up with us. It went on for weeks and it really was like we felt were being hounded. That’s why I know how long a Rückrunde like that can get. Even when you’re ahead by a few points.
Dortmund actually finished in second place with 78 points at the end of the 2015-2016 season, but the fact that Müller believed they had over 80 — Bayern won the league with 88 points — speaks to his impression of the threat Dortmund’s posed that season.