Braunschweig - FC Bayern München's dress rehearsal for Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg with Real Madrid CF delivered the right result, even if the performance was again some way off their usual lofty standards.
Big club, small club mentality
Two second-half goals gave the Bavarians their first league win in three matches away to Eintracht Braunschweig, but while the points were long overdue, the general consensus was that they will have to produce much more at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Bayern are not the only side to have endured difficulties in the Lions’ den this term, with Braunschweig fighting tooth and nail for their Bundesliga lives. Yet the 24-time national champions were, at times, made to look ordinary in the face of the hosts’ relentless pressing and compact approach. It was only when the bottom club began to tire late in the second half that Claudio Pizarro and substitute Mario Mandzukic were at last able to find a way through.
The performance nevertheless left a lot to be desired ahead of what is possibly the club's biggest game of the season in the Champions League. “If we don't play brilliantly against Real, then we're not going to make the final," said Pep Guardiola bluntly. "We didn't even manage to put three, four or five passes together in the first half," he added, "but we won, so we can be happy."
Back in the groove
Bayern are not used to having to grind out results, yet perhaps winning in such a way was what the team needed after their worst run of form in the league since 2010. Indeed, since clinching the Bundesliga title in record time, the Reds had drawn with 1899 Hoffenheim and lost successive matches to FC Augsburg and Borussia Dortmund.
Guardiola had repeatedly said that "the Bundesliga is over for us" and Thomas Müller admitted to a "lack of hunger" in the league after the BVB reverse, leading to somewhat justifiable accusations that the players were not approaching the German championship, their bread and butter, with the required motivation. Thankfully, Guardiola and his troops now look to have rediscovered their customary swagger.
'The black beast'
"I'm convinced everybody will put in a good performance on Wednesday, I'm not worried about that," said captain Philipp Lahm. "What mattered today was that we prepare for Madrid on Wednesday in a good frame of mind."
Ominously, Real have recorded just six wins in 20 meetings against die Münchner. "When Bayern play Real, the whole world will be watching," warned FCB chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "Over there, they call us 'la bestia negra' [black beast]. We have got to prove we deserve that reputation."