Munich - FC Bayern Munich head coach Jupp Heynckes was in great spirits this time last year, positively raving about the "best training camp" of his career. The upshot of it however was a season that ended with no new silverware in the record champions' trophy cabinet.
Neuer: "Learn from our mistakes"
Twelve months later, Bayern are back in Doha for a week hoping for a repeat of those first-rate mid-season preparations, albeit with a radically different outcome when the titles are dispensed in May.
Summery temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius in the Qatari capital notwithstanding, the holiday is definitively over for the players. Bayern have arranged a couple of serious tests - one against FC Schalke 04 to close out the training camp next Tuesday - before Bundesliga action resumes against SpVgg Greuther Fürth on 19 January, and Heynckes has made it clear he will not allow the focus to slip. “The team must stay hungry, stay greedy - I'll be making tht very clear to the lads. We have to carry on the good work,” the veteran tactician stressed before the squad flew out from Munich.
As was the case last year, Bayern top the table at the midway stage. In contrast to then however, the nine-point advantage over second-place Bayer 04 Leverkusen and twelve-point lead on defending champions Borussia Dortmund leaves the four-time European champions in an altogether more comfortable position. In addition, the bitter experiences of 2011/12 have served as a lesson. "We want to learn from past mistakes," stressed goalkeeper , who believes as well that now, "Our squad is better."
Club president Uli Hoeneß is similarly upbeat at the moment, commenting, "We’re in a great position for second half of the season. I believe that if we remain as focused, we'll achieve our goals."
Badstuber the only absentee
On fire in the Bundesliga and through to the first knock-out round of the UEFA Champions League and the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup, Bayern are buoyant to say the least. “We haven’t won anything yet,” midfield general acknowledges, “but I can’t think of a team that’s dominated the first half of a season the way we did.”
It's where they finish at the end of the second half that counts of course, as CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has been at pains to emphasise: "We have to start winning titles again." With the exception of central defender Holger Badstuber, out for months to come with a cruciate ligament injury, Heynckes now has a full-strength squad at his disposal to that end. Ominously for Bayern's upcoming opponents, that includes Dutch ace , back in team training again after weeks on the sideline with a hamstring problem.