Munich - Heading into the second half of the season, FC Bayern München coach Pep Guardiola is optimistic his second campaign in charge of the Bundesliga leaders will end in success after seeing plenty of positives from their winter preparations.
On the victory trail
Speaking in an interview broadcast on Bayern's official YouTube channel, the Catalan gave a superlative assessment of the past four weeks which have seen the record champions wow crowds in the Middle East, and Bochum.
"The winter break went well," Guardiola said. " was practically the only player to sustain any injury during this training camp. David Alaba came back well and now we're really only waiting for the return of Philipp Lahm, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez. Everyone else worked really well."
Back-to-back 4-1 wins over Qatar Stars and Al-Hilal FC were followed by a 5-1 exhibition in Bochum, although Guardiola had the right dose of realism in viewing the context of those victories - impressive though they were - in the bigger picture. "We all know just how difficult and how intense the second half of the season will be, but we're ready to do our best," he said.
In at the deep end
"We'll focus on every game as it comes and really take our matches step by step, and then we'll see which level we can achieve in the second half of the season," Guardiola added. It could hardly come any more menacing for the defending champions with a trip to second-placed VfL Wolfsburg on Friday night followed by the visit of FC Schalke 04 to the Allianz Arena four days later, but that is just the way Guardiola likes it.
"I think we're well prepared for Wolfsburg," said the 44-year-old. "I think it’s good to face the team in second immediately because it forces us to pick up the pace. Wolfsburg have played an outstanding season so far so that will be tough. Then next Tuesday we have our first home game of the new year against Schalke and that will also be difficult."
Laying the foundations
"However, we will try our best and it just depends on how well we play," Guardiola continued. "We know how important the first two or three games will be and if we can win our first couple of games of 2015 then we will realise we can take a big step towards defending our Bundesliga title."
That is the aim for the record titleholders ahead of four months they hope will be tinged with glory, just like the last two years when a winter trip to Doha provided the springboard for success. Guardiola's gut feeling this time around appears to be equally positive with the 2015 Bundesliga curtain raiser drawing ever closer.