- Bayern beat Benfica 3-2 on aggregate to reach Champions League last four.
- Reds into semis for fifth straight year.
- Manuel Neuer says winning the trophy has to be the aim.
Once again, Manuel Neuer played a vital role in ensuring FC Bayern München reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for a fifth season in a row.
As Neuer told bundesliga.com in an exclusive interview after the 3-2 aggregate win against SL Benfica on Wednesday, Bayern face a thrilling and potentially glorious run-in both at home and in Europe.
bundesliga.com: Manuel Neuer, congratulations on reaching the semi-finals. There was a real celebratory mood when the players went over to the fans after match.
Manuel Neuer: We’re delighted to have got through to the semi-finals again, but obviously we want to go all the way now.
bundesliga.com: How important has Javi Martinez’s return to form been for the team? The coach’s first-choice central defensive partnership of Martinez and Boateng could be available for the semi-finals…
Neuer: He was out for a long time after his operation and now we’re very happy to have a player who is so strong in the tackle back in the team. And his aerial ability is also really important for us. I think we dealt with the raft of injuries very well, and the players that stepped in did a great job. We’ve had a fantastic season but of course I’d be delighted if Jerome was fit again.
bundesliga.com: Arturo Vidal is in very good form at the moment and scored in both legs of this tie. How do you rate his performances?
Neuer: We know how important Arturo is for the team in vital matches at the highest level. He throws himself into every challenge and he’s also very creative going forward. And he’s grabbed some very important goals too.
bundesliga.com: The situation in the final stretch of this season is slightly different to the last two years. The title has not yet been wrapped up definitively. In a way, does it help you to feel the pressure from Borussia Dortmund and have a strong rival in the Bundesliga?
Neuer: Dortmund have almost always had to play catch-up this season as they’ve regularly been playing on Thursdays in the Europa League, meaning they have to play on Sundays in the Bundesliga. They’ve pushed us all the way and mentally they’re very strong. We know they’re not going to give us anything and we’ll have to work hard to keep them at bay. We’ve kept our focus and concentration in every game and we’re fully motivated to win every match, whether it’s against Stuttgart or this weekend against Schalke.
bundesliga.com Is still room for improvement in the next few games though?
Neuer: We’ve put in some really good performances in the Rückrunde - we played fantastically in Dortmund for example. We’ve taken every game seriously and I never had the impression that we were wobbling or lacking hunger.
Interview by Alexander Barklage