What a week it’s been for Bayern Munich.
Last Saturday they hammered Hamburg 9-2 in the biggest win of the season and Hamburg’s worst defeat in 43 years. They have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals after Tuesday’s impressive home victory over Juventus and the week’s not over yet. Victory at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday will secure them a record 22nd Bundesliga Title.
Who better to sum up Bayern than Antonio Conte, the coach of the Italian Champions and Serie A leaders after Tuesday’s defeat. “They’re a team which is really young, a team that runs a lot, a tall team, a physically strong team, a really powerful team, we didn’t just find that out today. We congratulate Bayern for playing a great match, we tried to do the best we could but it wasn’t enough.”
Bayern have used last season’s crushing home defeat to Chelsea in the Champions league final as incentive to bounce back even stronger and make amends. Everywhere you look in the last two games there were signs of Bayern’s talent and unshakeable belief.
Strength in Depth
Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro made only his third Bundesliga start of the season against Hamburg and scored his first goal of the campaign. He liked the feeling so much he went on to add three more and make two assists to create Bundesliga history. Instead of demanding more playing time, the 34-year-old Peruvian seemed happy just to be part of the success. “I feel great. It’s so good to play for this team and to score goals.” Yet his reward was to be an unused substitute for the Champions League quarter final first leg against Juventus where the normal pecking order in attack was restored with Mario Mandzukic as first choice and Mario Gomez a late substitute.
When Toni Kroos hobbled off after just 13 minutes against Juventus that might have been a disaster at most other clubs. Not for Bayern though and not just because Arjen Robben was a more than able deputy. The flying Dutch winger didn’t directly replace Kroos on the pitch. That job fell to Thomas Muller and the task wasn’t just to create but also to neutralise the threat of veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo. Not easy if you haven’t trained for it but the 23 year old took it in his stride once again showing his intelligence and versatility. Not that he’s ‘a jack of all trades and a master of none’, far from it. Last Saturday, Heynckes paid Muller the ultimate tribute by resting him for the game against Hamburg. This was hardly surprising as Muller has been the first choice ahead of Robben all season, missing only five games. And he rewarded his coach with a goal and another solid display. He’s indispensable for both club and country. At only 23 years old his CV makes for very impressive reading. He’s already won 41 caps, and at the last World Cup Finals he was voted best young player after finishing joint top scorer.
The Heynckes Factor
Jupp Heynckes is one victory away from becoming the oldest coach to win the Bundesliga title and could become the first coach to win the treble in Germany and yet he will lose his job to Pep Guardiola at the end of the season. It goes without saying that this is motivating the 67 year old to make history. The Bayern management may have been praised for winning the race for the former Barcelona coach but their treatment of Heynckes has left a bitter taste. Who knows Is there room for another ex Bundesliga legend on the Bayern board ? Heynckes was like a proud father glowing in praise following his side’s performance. “I have to compliment my team. Tonight my players once again played great football in every aspect of the game. They were perfectly positioned on the pitch and that’s why I think a 2-0 win is alright. We could have scored another goal, but a 2-0 win in the quarter finals against Juventus is a good result.”
The attention now switches to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday where a Bayern victory will secure them their record 22nd Bundesliga Title. There will be no celebration though because four days later Bayern have to finish off their Italian job in Turin. And they’re not getting carried away as Arjen Robben stressed. “We need to stay focused and calm. We are all aware of the experience we had against Arsenal in the last round. We learned from it and are on our guard.”
Which is not to say they don’t feel confident if Franck Ribery is anything to go by. “I think we can win everything this year. We have to manage our matches well. I think for the Bundesliga we will be champions, we can reach the final of the German Cup and we can go far in the Champions League.”
The Bundesliga title is a formality but the next two weeks will determine if Bayern stay on course for that unprecedented treble. After losing two Champions League finals in the past three seasons, it might be a case of third time lucky. Even their biggest critics would surely not begrudge Bayern that honour.
Eurosport 2 Commentator
Eurosport 2 kicks off the weekend Bundesliga action on Friday with a relegation six pointer when Hoffenheim host Fortuna Dusseldorf (20:30). On Saturday we’re live when Bayern Munich could be crowned champions if they beat Eintracht in Frankfurt (15:30). That’s followed by a match for Europa League places as Hamburg entertain Freiburg (18:30). On Sunday, we feature two games between four sides all still with a chance of Europa League places. Don’t miss in-form FC Nurnberg at home to Mainz (15:30) followed by Hannover 96 – VFB Stuttgart (1730).