Bayern Munich’s impressive start to the Rückrunde continued with their 5-0 thrashing of Schalke just a week after dismantling Jurgen Klinsmann’s Hertha Berlin 4-0 at the Olympiastadion. Goals from Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Leon Goretzka, Thiago Alcantara, and Serge Gnabry led Bayern to the emphatic, well deserved three points, re-stamping their authority in the Bundesliga’s title race.
Speaking after the win over Schalke, captain Manuel Neuer affirmed that “FC Bayern is back.” In light of the number of chances they created and goals they scored against both Schalke and Berlin, Neuer said that everyone in the league knows that Bayern’s back (AZ):
We were very focused and created many goal chances for ourselves. Everyone in the Bundesliga knows that FC Bayern is back. But we also know that the competition isn’t sleeping.
Fortuitously for Bayern, RB Leipzig fell 2-0 to Eintracht Frankfurt at the Commerzbank Arena in an earlier kickoff, reducing the gap between Leipzig and Bayern to a single point — and Bayern has the better goal difference. Despite that boost, Neuer reiterated that everyone in the squad is just focused on doing their job and battling for maximum points in every match:
Of course you hear about that [i.e. Eintracht’s win] before the game, but we want to focus on our games and at the moment things are going really well. Strong teams have already lost in Frankfurt.
In the Hinrunde, Bayern’s Achilles heel seemed to be getting caught on counter-attacks when they had committed numbers forward. Often, the center-backs would be caught on their heels in retreat and find themselves a few steps behind an attack. Tactically, that was something that was worked on during the winter training camp in Qatar. Neuer emphasized that everyone on the pitch is working to keep everything compact, both offensively and defensively:
We’re playing very well in cooperation. Everyone is taking part, even the offensive players. We stay compact and usually with superior numbers at the back. So we all have a good feeling and play with our head held high and very dominantly.
Opposite Neuer, Schalke’s Markus Schubert had an evening he’ll probably want to forget. Despite making a handful of decent saves, the youngster was peppered with shots by Bayern for the better part of the 90 minutes and was arguably (at least partially) at fault for Lewandowski’s opening goal for Bayern. Still, though, Neuer feels that it was a good experience for Schubert:
In essence, it’s good for a young goalkeeper to gain such experiences. We older guys have all experienced that. So it’s not so bad for him. I think Bayern Munich would have won today even with his very best performance.
Hansi Flick summarized Bayern’s performance by saying that his side made a point of pressing Schalke right out of the gates to disrupt their ball movement, which is something his side executed very well, especially in the first half (FCBayern.com):
It was very good today. Schalke turned in an impressive display in their first match against Gladbach. But we played at home and wanted to stick to our play, our philosophy. We wanted to disturb them early, to put them under pressure, with high intensity. We did very well, especially in the first half. The main thing is we’ve taken three points. The way we played has to boost our confidence. The quality in the squad is outstanding, and if I can up the ante as I did today I’m very satisfied.