With Winter Break Ending, Bayern Munich Return Focus to Hunt for Silverware

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2014

Bayern Munich head coach Pep Guardiola participates in a training session at the ASPIRE Academy for Sports Excellence in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
Osama Faisal/Associated Press

When we talk about the rationale behind a winter break in this country, we often look to our foreign counterparts across Europe and consider their solutions with admiration. Germany, France and Italy, to name but a few, all take breaks over the the Christmas period 

Yet Bayern chose to spend their winter break travelling throughout Asia for a few midseason friendlies against the best the continent could offer and continuing Pep Guardiola's redevelopment of this current Bavarian juggernaut. 

The first game came against former Real Madrid and Schalke striker, Raul, and his side Al-Merrikh SC. Guardiola opted to play Javi Martinez as a centre back—a role many had touted the Spaniard for once the new coach arrived—and a striker-less formation with Franck Ribery at its peak as the side won 2-0.

An interesting tactical move, but one that didn't come lightly to Guardiola. A few days prior to the opening game in Doha, local Munich paper TZ filmed a training session in which the young coach passionately went over the same drill with his side for the entire duration of the eight-minute video, shouting and swearing throughout.

The video was then uploaded to YouTube, where you can see it below, with the catchy headline in quotes: "This happens in every, f***ing game!"

The next opponents, Kuwait Sporting Club, then offered a similar degree of resistance with a routing to the tune of eight goals. This time Mario Mandzukic was chosen to play as the lone striker in Bayern's tradition 4-1-4-1 role, yet he seemed to be the only one who didn't score as Mario Gotze, Thiago Alcantara, Muller, and Julian Green all got on the scoreboard. 

Guardiola chose to continue experimenting to rather extreme degrees in his side's final friendly match against Austrian side Salzburg. Ribery (back), Philipp Lahm (knee), Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Daniel van Buyten (not match fit) all missed the game.

The coach chose to draft in Martinez, Dante and Jerome Boateng to play as a back three. as well as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg alongside Toni Kroos in the centre of midfield, while David Alaba played on the left and Muller as the lone striker. 

Yet such a new system clearly meddled with Bayern's fate, and the impressive side from the Austrian Bundesliga continued their fantastic season with a 2-0 win over the German and European champions on Guardiola's 43rd birthday. 

Two wins out of three may seem like an acceptable record at this time in the season, but for a perfectionist like Guardiola, the defeat to Salzburg will stick in his side for the foreseeable future. Results may have taken a backseat to performances over the course of the break, but news such as that video from Doha suggest that Bayern are far from where their coach want them to be despite the fantastic season they're currently having. 

With the return to competitive football for the current league leaders comes a tricky away tie to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday, January 24, in a return leg to the game that opened Guardiola's first Bundesliga season. 

In that opening game Bayern won by a fair margin, but it wasn't before the Foals put the new coach's team under considerable pressure and begun a mood of unease that took some time to fall away from the team. 

Of course, Gladbach would argue that they're in even better shape than they were that day. In nine home games in the Bundesliga this season, Lucien Favre's side have won eight against sides such as Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, and drawn just one. Borussia Park will expect blood when Bayern come to visit next weekend.  


    Bayern Munich star Thomas Muller confident Germany can recover

    FC Bayern Munich logo
    FC Bayern Munich

    Bayern Munich star Thomas Muller confident Germany can recover

    Bayern Strikes
    via Bayern Strikes

    Made in London: Nigeria's British Connection

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Made in London: Nigeria's British Connection

    Tom Williams
    via Bleacher Report

    Leverkusen Director Bites Back at Bayern's Success

    FC Bayern Munich logo
    FC Bayern Munich

    Leverkusen Director Bites Back at Bayern's Success

    Bavarian Football Works
    via Bavarian Football Works