New-look Bayern Munich face their first real tests under coach Pep Guardiola this weekend as the European champions play a tournament of Bundesliga teams, then face Spanish giants Barcelona on Wednesday.
Having won all six of their low-key pre-season friendlies so far, Bayern face tougher tests at this weekend’s Telekom Cup at Borussia Moenchengladbach’s ground where the hosts, Hamburg and main Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund are involved.
Bayern could meet Dortmund in Sunday’s final in a repeat of the Champions League showpiece at Wembley in May when the Bavarians ran out 2-1 winners, before welcoming Barcelona in a friendly at Munich’s Allianz Arena next Wednesday.
“It will be two important test matches for us and we want to win the competition, that is always the same for us,” said midfielder Toni Kroos ahead of the Telekom Cup.
Following an extended post-Confederations Cup break, Bayern welcomed back their trio of Spain’s Javi Martinez, plus Brazil’s Dante and Luis Gustavo, who has been linked to a move to VfL Wolfsburg, to training this week.
The next seven days will be a big test for Guardiola’s new system, while new-signing Thiago Alcantara is set to make his debut since joining from Barcelona.
The 42-year-old Guardiola took charge on June 24, insisting he would adapt “100 percent” to the players and promising to change “only a few little things” before whisking the team away to their pre-season training camp in north Italy.
Four weeks later and Guardiola has switched up key positions and introduced a new 4-1-4-1 system.
Captain Philipp Lahm, a Bayern institute at right-back, now finds himself in a midfield role while France winger Franck Ribery has been moved up front into the ‘false nine’ role Lionel Messi occupys at Barcelona.
“A little weird” is how Ribery described the new system and although Lahm said Guardiola “has not reinvented football”, the ex-Barcelona boss, who won 14 titles in four years at the Camp Nou, has certainly reinvented Bayern.
Guardiola has hinted at breaking up the defensive midfield partnership which pitted Martinez alongside Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger as Bayern became the first German team to win the treble of European, league and cup titles last season.
Martinez could play at centre-back and Schweinsteiger in an attacking midfield role, Guardiola has said, while striker Mario Mandzukic has all the attributes of a defender, according to the Spaniard.
“When the coach wants something done a certain way, we can’t turn around and say “yes, but we want to play like we did last year”,” said midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri.
In training, Guardiola is frequently in the middle of the action, moving players around like pieces on a chessboard, often by inches, and the Spaniard is a perfectionist when it comes down to details.
“Pep Guardiola has his own ideas and he expects a few things from us, for example, when you move or pass and our positional play,” said Lahm.