Bayern Munich’s German Cup semifinal tie in Leverkusen does not boast the prestige of a European meeting with Real Madrid, but could prove more pivotal to ending a turbulent season with another treble.
After facing an inevitable interrogation regarding his side’s chances of matching their historic feat from 2013, head coach Jupp Heynckes sent a clear message to his players. Bayern “have to prove that we’re good enough to win the treble.”
Leverkusen not to be overlooked
The German titleholders have already wrapped up a record-breaking sixth straight Bundesliga title, but more pleasing for Heynckes was that Saturday’s 5-1 win against Gladbach demonstrated “that all the players are motivated” ahead of a tricky cup tie in Leverkusen – the first of three semifinals for Bayern.
“We’re going up against a highly-talented side,” warned the 72-year-old, who was in charge of Leverkusen between 2009 and 2011.
“Leverkusen are excellent on the counter. They play with a lot of fantasy and technical finesse. Cup games are decided by emotion – tomorrow’s game will be a treat for true football fans. It’s always special to be involved in a cup final in Berlin. Everyone dreams of getting back there.”
More to lose than gain?
As with the Bundesliga, German Cup success is nothing new to Bayern despite featuring in the final just once in the last three iterations.
A win over Leverkusen on Tuesday would nevertheless be seen as meeting expectations, whereas a loss could throw a spanner in the works at the worst time for the German record titleholders.
In 2013, Bayern needed no added motivation after suffering the agony of defeat in the home European final against Chelsea. Since then, wrapping up the Bundesliga title with time to spare has often been attributed to a lack of drive and, as a result, an inability to reach the final of Europe’s premier club competition.
Last season, Bayern suffered a dip in form when it mattered most and, though they weren’t helped by lapses in discipline or the loss of Robert Lewandowski to injury, the club is intent on preventing it setting a precedent for the future.
Jupp sees similarities to 2013 side
From Carlo Ancelotti’s dismissal in October to the signing of Sandro Wagner during the winter break, Bayern’s decisions, no matter how uncharacteristic, have all been aimed at righting the wrongs of recent seasons.
While not one to hail his undeniable role in Bayern’s turnaround in 2018, Heynckes is confident of doing just that as he believes his side are on a similar path to that which made history six years ago.
“The whole team is absolutely motivated, focused on our current situation and, above all, top fit,” said Heynckes. “That fills me with optimism that we can achieve something big.”
How big remains to be seen, but if Bayern can get over a significant psychological hurdle of reaching the German Cup final at Leverkusen’s expense, then dreamers will be hard to deny. After all, Bayern are the only side in Europe’s top five leagues still capable of completing the treble.