Bayern Munich and their star coach Carlo Ancelotti will have to start finding solutions quickly if they are to avoid further headlines about their crisis. Ahead of their fifth match in the Champions League against FK Rostov in Group D, the minds of the Bavarians and the Italian Ancelotti are focused on the two decisive games after the encounter in Russia on Wednesday evening – against Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga and the final group match at home to Atletico Madrid on December 6.
A red-eye flight immediately after the game in Rostov will take the Germans back to Munich to start preparation for the next challenge against fellow Champions League side Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday evening. No longer table-toppers after losing to Borussia Dortmund (1-0), Bayern Munich are currently focused solely on the domestic title race.
“It’s the right decision to return straight away to have more time to prepare for the next games. We’re well aware we have to take all three points in Rostov if we are to finish in top spot. Nothing less than three points is the aim,” Bayern’s team captain Philipp Lahm said.
Bayern promised to take the game in Rostov seriously, but at the same time have declined to nominate five of their key-players for the trip. Manuel Neuer, Arturo Vidal, Arjen Robben, Kingsley Coman and Javier Martinez won’t be in Bayern’s squad due to injuries. Ancelotti does not want to take any risks with the Leverkusen and Atletico games coming up, and has decided to give the quintet a break from first team duty.
Meanwhile Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is refusing to utter the word ‘crisis’. “It’s nonsense. We’re happy with Carlo Ancelotti’s work. He’s a great coach,” Rummenigge said before taking off from Munich. Rummenigge also refused to say that finishing at the top of the Champoins League group is a must for the club. It would, however, mean that they could avoid facing one of the other leading teams in the last 16.
“Looking at the other tables, it’s obvious that it’s not totally necessary to finish in first place. But at the moment we’re focusing on the two next games. First on the one in Rostov and then we want to beat Leverkusen in the Bundesliga to return to the top. The game against Leverkusen is therefore the most important one this week,” Rummenigge said.
To end up in first place, Bayern will not only have to beat the Russians, but will have to vanquish Atletico as well. So far, Ancelotti and Bayern have lost both the season’s crunch games, including the one in Dortmund last weekend and the first one in Madrid.
While Rummenigge tries to ease the tension within the club, Bayern are currently the subject of widespread discussion in Germany about the team’s poor performance under Ancelotti. The Italian’s management style is constantly under fire. In contrast to predecessor Pep Guardiola, the new coach relies on a strict 4-3-3 tactical system which gives players greater leeway to interpret the game as they feel. In contrast, Guardiola’s style was based on total domination of the pitch and strict tactical planning.
The radical change in tactics and style seems to be producing problems that Bayern and Ancelotti have yet to solve. “We still get our heads around the fact that it’s not a problem when our opponent has the ball. We have to learn to be patient,” Lahm said. Defender Mats Hummels, for his part, thinks the problem is “that we are not efficient enough in front of the goal.”
The Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper saw Bayern’s defeat in Dortmund as being another example of the qualitative decline since the departure of Guardiola.
Former Bayern Munich player Lothar Matthaeus spoke about a “mentality problem” and accused Ancelotti and the current squad of not working hard enough on the training pitch. “The entire team does not appear to be fully fit. My impression is, many of the players think it would be enough to deliver 80 per cent instead of 100 per cent. But it’s obvious it does not work that way,” Matthaeus said.
Ultimately, while Rummenigge is backing his coach despite the crisis, Matthaeus and other pundits are still demanding changes in both effort and attitude. “Ancelotti will soon have to find a solution. Nobody seems to be happy at present,” Matthaeus said.