Doha/Munich - FC Bayern München coach Pep Guardiola has sounded a warning from his club's mid-season training camp in Qatar which will be heard reverberating all across Germany, Europe and beyond.
Success breeds success
As if regularly having close to 80 per cent of ball possession was not enough and winning five trophies in a single year was not enough, the 42-year-old tactician is looking for even more from his team in 2014.
The Red conquered Europe by winning the UEFA Champions League last May and then the world by just a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, Guardiola still sees room, and necessity, for improvement. "We want to have even more control, even more of the ball," said the man who led FC Barcelona to 14 trophies in three seasons. "This team needs to be improved. That's the best mentality you can have.”
Indeed, the players will need no reminding of the incentive they have in the next few months. Top of the Bundesliga by seven points and going strong in both cup competitions, the possibility is there for this Bayern side to win even more silverware and establish themselves as perhaps the greatest club side ever. Guardiola will be on hand to lend support, and they would do well to heed his advice, particularly his assertion that, “I’m a friend to all my players, provided they accept my ideas”.
The Spaniard’s desire for the maximum in 2014 will have been helped by news that and , having made the trip with the squad to Qatar, are making excellent progress in their recoveries from injury. Robben suffered a knee complaint in a DFB Cup game at FC Augsburg in December, while Schweinsteiger underwent ankle surgery two months ago. Guardiola said of the Germany international's improving fitness that his condition is "much, much better" and he and the medical team are "very, very happy".
“I hope things improve by the day. It's very important for me personally to have my vice-captain here," added Guardiola on the Bayern youth team graduate. "I know how important he is for the team, the whole club and for German football. "We have three weeks before our first game and I hope that both can play ."
Having two players with 173 international caps between them will certainly be a boost in view of a start to the New Year that will test even Bayern's resolve, and squad depth, in three competitions. "We've got six away games in our first eight matches," said sporting director Matthias Sammer to fcbayern.de. "We're going to have to be on track as quickly as possible."
Included in those away matches are trips to Hamburg in the DFB Cup and Arsenal FC in the Champions League, while the Reds also play three Bundesliga games inside eight days on account of their rearranged Matchday 17 fixture with VfB Stuttgart. With the fixtures coming thick and fast, it is no wonder Guardiola has his foot to the pedal inside the first week of 2014.