Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern Munich chief executive, was talking a good game ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg in five days’ time against Real Madrid.
At a sponsors lunch, and in a very public pep talk, he told the players and coach Pep Guardiola: “A defeat is never positive but it gives you the chance to respond; and I know that on Tuesday you will respond.”
He also promised Real, who take a 1-0 lead into the second game, that the Allianz Arena will be a cauldron for the visitors, and added: “It will be very hot for them at our home. I got up after the 1-0 defeat and my impression was that those around me from Real Madrid were not happy with the result. They know 70,000 of our supporters will be waiting for them. It will be hot enough for the trees to burn in Munich. What happened to them against Dortmund [a 4-1 defeat in the away leg of last season’s semi-finals] will seem pleasant by comparison.”
All Guardiola needs to do now is produce the performance to match Rummenigge’s rhetoric. The problem for the Bayern coach is that the signs from the first leg are not promising.
After 15 minutes of 90 percent possession had come to nothing for Bayern in the Bernabeu, Real’s first attack ended up in the back of Manuel Neuer’s net and there was very little in the way of response from the holders.
They started looking every bit like the side that won everything last season; that feels, to a certain extent, that they have nothing left to prove; and that, what is more, they are not completely capable of carrying out Guardiola’s orders.
Robert Lewandowski cannot arrive soon enough. The Borussia Dortmund striker signed for next season will be better suited to the demands the Bayern coach has placed on Mario Mandzukic. While the Croatian laboured against Sergio Ramos and Pepe on Wednesday, Lewandowski put four goals past Real in last season’s first leg at the Westfalenstadion.
Guardiola is still very much playing the hand left him by predecessor Jupp Heynckes. Arguably his most important summer signing – and the one player who knows exactly what the coach wants to happen on the pitch because they were at Barcelona together – Thiago Alcantara, is out injured for the rest of the season.
That has left him with little option but to keep Philipp Lahm in central midfield, where he was outstanding in the first half on Wednesday, and, as a consequence, Rafinha at right-back. The Brazilian struggled to contain Fabio Coentrao and a not-fully fit Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Ronaldo will be stronger on Tuesday and so will Gareth Bale,” said the Real coach, Carlo Ancelotti, ominously after the first leg. The power of the Spanish team’s counter-attack is the greatest threat to Bayern’s chances of staging a comeback.
The side Guardiola labelled “the best counter-attacking team in the world” have gone into the second legs trailing in all of their last three Champions League semi-finals. This is new, and very favourable, territory for them.
Rummenigge did not dwell on the absence of an away goal in his speech. Guardiola had lamented the team’s failure to score in his post-match appraisal. He was also asked after the game about the comments from Franz Beckenbauer. Bayern’s honorary president indicated that he thought the team was lucky to have conceded just once. Guardiola was asked if he agreed, and clearly unhappy at being made to comment, gave his shortest answer of the night: “Real Madrid had more chances to score.”
The transformation of Bayern under Guardiola was never going to happen overnight and the great and the good in Bavaria are wise enough to know that. But that does not stop them pitching in with observations about the team’s performances. Beckenbauer can seem like a dripping tap for an under-fire coach. And under-fire is what Guardiola will be if there is no second leg turnaround.
“Football is not just about having possession it’s about defending and counter-attacking too,” said Ancelotti on Wednesday. He then made reference to the old football truism that if you have the ball the other team cannot score – knowing full well that serves no purpose to Bayern next week. Stopping Madrid scoring without scoring themselves will not be enough – more gun twirling without firing any bullets and the champions will be out.