Bayern still have unfinished business in Bundesliga despite end of title reign

20 Apr 2024

Thomas Tuchel has insisted Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga season is far from over despite Bayer Leverkusen ending the club’s bid for a 12th successive title.

Leverkusen’s 5-0 home win over Werder Bremen last Sunday left Bayern 16 points adrift with just five games to play, and although Tuchel’s deposed champions soothed their disappointment in midweek when they edged past Arsenal to book a Champions League semi-final showdown with Real Madrid, they still have work to do on the domestic front.

They lead third-placed Stuttgart only on goal difference and with RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund still fighting for a top-four finish, cannot afford to relax as they head for Union Berlin on Saturday.

Tuchel told a press conference: “We want to prove our good form tomorrow.”You can celebrate moments like against Arsenal. The fixture list is full, now we’ve got another away trip, but the emotions after a game like that are special. It’s not a given. The team was able to enjoy it.

“I don’t know if it’ll kick-start things – it would be too late in the Bundesliga. We’ll prepare in a professional way. We’ve got a lot to come. The season isn’t over yet in the Bundesliga.”

Tuchel has decisions to make ahead of the trip to Berlin with Leroy Sane unlikely to be involved as he recovers from injury and Serge Gnabry facing a race against time to face Madrid on April 30.

Vastly experienced forward Thomas Muller was an unused substitute against the Gunners and Tuchel admits neither he nor the player was happy about the situation.

He said: “I hope our relationship is good and that it remains. Neither of us like the situation. He doesn’t like that he didn’t play and I don’t like that I had to tell him that.

“It was a sporting decision and no depreciation of his sporting status. He’s professional enough to put it behind him.”

Sane found himself the centre of attention the last time the sides met in January when Union coach Nenad Bjelica was sent off after pushing the Germany winger in the face as he attempted to retrieve the ball on the sideline and was subsequently handed a three-match ban and fined 25,000 euros.

Tuchel said: “I’d forgotten about that. I’m pleased for my colleague that there was no further impact. It was a one-off. They’ve become more solid under him and taken a step forward.”

Bjelica’s men, who have won just one of their last seven games, face a very different challenge to Bayern as they attempt to increase the three-point gap which currently separates them from the danger zone at the foot of the table.

The head coach told a press conference: “Of course it’s a big challenge to play against Bayern, but we expect to have a chance against any opponent. The entire squad is highly motivated.”

Philippe Clement urges Rangers to embrace intense environment of run-in

Philippe Clement has told his off-form Rangers players they must embrace an intense environment where results dictate whether they go to “heaven or hell”.

The Gers were widely lauded after a consistent run of form that saw them wipe out Celtic’s eight-point advantage at the top of the cinch Premiership to briefly take over at the summit in February.

However, they go into this Sunday’s Scottish Gas Scottish Cup semi-final against on-song Hearts having been ferociously criticised after slip-ups away to Ross County and Dundee over the past week left them with just two wins from their last eight games in all competitions and their title hopes hanging by a thread.

“If you win 10 games in a row, you have more belief than when you lose two times but this is Rangers, this is a club where you always have to fight,” said Clement.

“Every point you lose, it’s like you’re going to hell. That’s this world, and that’s good. That’s also the challenge and it’s interesting to see which players can live in that way.

“But it’s an exciting place to be because on the other side you can go also to heaven when you win games and when you win trophies.

“In other teams, where it’s not so important to win points or when it’s not something dramatic when you lose points, you cannot go to heaven also because those are not the clubs that win trophies. This is something you need to embrace.”

Clement insists he is comfortable with the intense scrutiny and criticism he has faced amid Rangers’ recent “bumps in the road”.

“I know it’s part of the job,” he said. “I’ve been now more than 30 years in this world and I’ve been buried a lot of times as a player and as a manager, so I know what I’m doing in a club. I know what I’m doing in this club. I know we are on the right road together.”

Clement described the demands of being in charge of Rangers as similar to managing former club Brugge in his homeland.

“Winning, becoming champion, is the only thing that counts,” he said. “But I’ve been like that all my life. There is nobody who can be more critical than me because I want to win everything.

“Everybody who knows me from when I was a child, whether it was basketball, tennis or table tennis or whatever sport, I want to win. I made a lot of fights with my wife about that, that I wanted that mentality with my children because I did it with them also.

“If I played a game with them and they were three years old, I wanted to win. That is the mentality that is necessary in a club like this, but you need to embrace that.

“It’s also because of that that you can be successful and you can win trophies and have these exciting moments that will stay with you for the rest of your life. That is what Rangers is about and that’s why I love to be here.”

Clement galvanised Rangers earlier in the season after replacing Michael Beale in October.

Asked what he would say to supporters who fear the resurgence is fizzling out, the Belgian said: “The same thing I said in October. I think this team since October did improve in results, in attitude and resilience, and in six months they proved it several times.

“So it’s there, they can do it. They’ve shown it several times with quality. That’s what they need to do again. So, yes, my belief is there 200 per cent.”

Erling Haaland a doubt for FA Cup semi-final

Erling Haaland is a doubt for Manchester City’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday.

The Norwegian striker was surprisingly substituted prior to extra time of the Champions League quarter-final loss to Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Manager Pep Guardiola revealed after the game the 23-year-old asked to be withdrawn but did not give a reason why.

Speaking on Friday, Guardiola confirmed the forward had suffered an injury but still gave little indication as to how serious.

Guardiola said at a press conference: “We will see. It was a tough game, a lot of action, high intensity for both sides.

“Erling felt something, a muscular issue. That’s why he told me he could not continue.

“The (doctor) said he had a little bit of niggles, a little problem, we will see how his evolution is in the next hours.”

In a more positive update, Guardiola confirmed playmaker Kevin De Bruyne “feels well” having been taken off during extra time against Real for nothing more serious than exhaustion.

Guardiola feels, given the schedule, it is understandable that players would be tired at this stage of the season.

He said: “It’s normal with the amount of games we are playing this season and the previous seasons and not much recovery, and extra time and high intensity.

“We put a lot of pressure in our game and that’s why the fatigue is there. They are human beings. They are not a machine. We are used to it.”

The agonising penalty shoot-out defeat by Real ended City’s hopes of winning the treble for a second season in succession.

Yet they remain on course to repeat the domestic double and Guardiola is determined to bounce back from the midweek heartache.

He said: “We don’t have another option. I don’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves.

“In football, you lose games. We performed at our best and we were not able to win. You have to accept it.

“We did everything. We know it, they know it, all the world know it, but it was not enough. When it’s not enough, it’s bad night.

“So congratulations (to Real) and, tomorrow, FA Cup.”

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