This month poses a hectic, packed fixtures list for Bayer Munich across all competitions (Bundesliga, FIFA Club World Cup, Champions League). The first challenge of the month lies in the form of a trip to the Olympiastadion to take on Hertha Berlin, who’ve recently brought back Pál Dárdai after sacking Bruno Labbadia. Immediately after that match, Bayern will travel to Doha, Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup where they will face Egyptian side Al Ahly in the semi-finals.
In a recent interview with FCBayern.com, Thomas Muller looked ahead to the Berlin match as well as the Club World Cup in Qatar. Dárdai took charge of his first match last weekend in the 3-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt, but Muller said it still complicates things a bit to analyze a side that has only had one match under a new manager.
“We’ve only had one game to analyze what they’ve changed and how they want to do things differently compared to the period under Bruno Labbadia. That makes the analysis a bit more difficult. Nevertheless, of course we try to prepare mainly for our game, to work through our to-do list, how we want to approach the game,” he explained.
Berlin also acquired Sami Khedira on a free transfer from Juventus on deadline day in the winter transfer window, and he’s a player that Muller knows very well from their time playing together on the German national team. Muller was reminiscent of Khedira’s playing years in the Bundesliga for VfB Stuttgart and said it was a testament to the talent in Germany that he went on to play for clubs like Juventus and Real Madrid: “I’m happy that Sami’s back. He’s a child of the Bundesliga, he grew up here, he won the league here with Stuttgart at a very young age and he earned his spurs. It was great for German football that he then moved abroad and played for top clubs like Real Madrid and Juventus. That also shows the quality of German players over the last 10 or 15 years, that they were in demand abroad again. I’m curious to see how things will go for him after his return.”
The first meeting between Bayern and Hertha was a 4-3 thriller at the Allianz Arena that saw Robert Lewandowski score all four of Bayern’s goals. The winner came by virtue of a late penalty converted by the Polish ace, but Bayern’s trips to the Olympiastadion in recent seasons haven’t always been too pretty, including the 2018/2019 season 2-0 loss. It’s always a difficult task to win in Berlin and Muller admitted that Bayern is wary of the added pressure on Hertha to turn their fortunes around and get a positive result: “Normally, the games in Berlin are always on a bit of a knife edge. Hertha are certainly not where they want to be in the table. There’s a lot of pressure on Berlin in the current situation. Of course, we want to take advantage of that, and maybe they’ll start feeling a bit nervous if things aren’t going well for them and we can perhaps get the first goal. We hope that’ll be an advantage for us. But basically, I expect a Berlin team who are up for a fight.”
Looking forward to the trip to Qatar, Muller expressed his excitement at the opportunity to get another piece of silverware attached to the treble-winning 2019/2020 season even though the competition is taking place in 2021 because of its coronavirus postponement. The schedule and timing is a bit off as a result of the global pandemic, but Muller said it would be the perfect cap to what was an incredible 2019/20 season: “The tournament is an opportunity for us to wrap up this huge run of success we had with the Champions League win last summer. We want to crown this outstanding year by winning the Club World Cup, so we’re very ambitious concerning this trophy. This tournament brings together the best teams from each continental association. As a European team, we are certainly favorites. We want to underline that and win the trophy as well, but it’ll certainly be a challenge.”
Muller also reflected on winning the Club World Cup in 2013 in Morocco when Bayern beat Raja Casablanca in the final to lift the title. He recalled how excited that fans were to see Bayern, but obviously that’s going to a be a bit different this time around due to the circumstances. “It was a wonderful time just before Christmas in Marrakech and also a really great event with the spectators there. The people in Morocco had really been looking forward to the tournament. Now, of course, the conditions are a bit different due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament has been squeezed into this tightly packed fixture list. But we have a super squad who can cope with that.”