opinions | 2015-04-14
The Pep Episodes (III)
Guardiola's worries despite having the alphabet covered
FC Bayern Munich won comfortably 3-0 against Eintracht Frankfurt, but that wasn’t what hogged the headlines on Saturday. The news was that the Bavarians only had four players on the bench, and one of them was keeper Manuel Neuer, who was rested by his coach.
A team can register up to seven substitutes, so not having all seven ready is a pretty rare event. Having only three outfield players left on the bench is extraordinary, especially for a club as big as Bayern.
Guardiola is battling injury worries, one more after the penalty win against Bayer Leverkusen in the domestic cup competition on Wednesday. Benatia got injured and will miss several weeks. Footage of that match showed an incredulous Guardiola clapping and banging his hands against the roof of the bench in disbelief when he had to sub the defender off during the game.
Ribery, Robben, Alaba, Schweinsteiger, Martinez, and now Benatia are all injured while Lahm, Badstuber, and Thiago not entirely at 100-percent match fitness after their long absences.
Guardiola has called the situation “very critical.” He said, “I don't know how long we can live with [the injuries].” Therefore the Bayern coach admitted before Saturday’s game: “We are tired. I hope our heads can control our legs.”
Lewandowski's heroics, Lahm's worries
Against Frankfurt, Bayern didn’t give any indication that they were tired or missing several key players. They played as they always do, especially at home: Creative, fluid, dangerous.His brace clinched the comfortable win, and he could have easily scored four or five goals by himself.
On Wednesday against Leverkusen, it wasn’t as easy. Bayern fought hard, with passion instead of creativity. They had to score all their five penalties after a goalless 120 minutes to book themselves a place in the domestic cup semifinals. “The team sticks together, we don’t have a psychological problem. There are reasons why it doesn’t work out that good in footballing terms”, said Captain Lahm after the intense clash.
Saturday’s performance showed that the team might have finally found its ease again and regained some confidence. But Lahm is aware that in the absence of many first-team regulars, Bayern will continue to struggle: “The question is, how long does it work that way”, Lahm said.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has praised Guardiola for the coach’s work and the latest results despite missing key players. “The coach is a genius,” Rummenigge said after the hard fought victories against BVB and Leverkusen. “He has lots of plans, not just A, B or C. I have the impression he’s got the whole alphabet covered.”
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The Pep Episodes are a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich contributed by Alex Truica. You can follow him on twitter: @kicker_atr
WRITTEN BY: Alex Truica
Creator of The Pep Episodes. Has a Bachelor degree in journalism and works as a freelance sports journalist and editor, covering international football.