Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac believes his team have "restored ease and confidence" after a difficult spell and says this year's Bundesliga is "more balanced and stronger" than the previous edition.
The former Frankfurt boss has faced criticism as his first season at the Allianz Arena has not gone according to plan. He's confident those struggles are in the past, however, per the club's official website:
"I feel we're the FC Bayern from the start of the season again, that we've restored our ease and confidence—and that the lads are fired up to give it everything and put up a fierce fight against Borussia Dortmund. ...
"It was a half year with many facets, very emotional, and certainly not boring. We had many good periods but also had to weather difficult ones. However, taken altogether we're on a good track, and at the end of the day our conclusion to the six months is positive."
He also said this year's Bundesliga is more difficult than the previous edition and that complacency may have played a part in the team's poor form in October and November. A slight tactical change has made a huge difference, though, and he said he stayed far away from the criticism heaped on him.
Bayern are unbeaten since losing to Bundesliga leaders Dortmund in November, winning six of their last eight matches across all competitions.
Prior to that run there were real questions about Kovac's future, and the club had to deny rumours he would be replaced by Arsene Wenger, per Sky Sports.
Those rumours came about after Wenger's agent was spotted attending a match, per Bild's Christian Falk:
Bayern struggled with injuries in the first half of the season but also conceded far too many goals, and not all of the struggles could be dismissed as bad luck.
DW Sports' Davis VanOpdorp believes the coach has to shoulder some of the blame, but the new year presents a fresh start:
The defending champions chase Dortmund by just six points entering the winter break thanks to their strong form, with five straight wins cutting into their lead.
In the UEFA Champions League, Bayern face the difficult challenge of Premier League giants Liverpool, but Kovac doesn't want to hype his side up too much for that double-header yet:
"You have to relax. We're permanently hyped up, we focus on football every day. I'll try to unwind. Liverpool are surely great opponents and a great challenge for the team and for me. But we have five league matches and one cup match until then. We want to win them. We must focus on our homework in the league and the cup, and then we'll see what's possible in the Champions League. We'll be perfectly prepared in any case."
Bayern's next outing will be on January 18 when they travel to face Hoffenheim. The first clash with Liverpool will be on February 19 at Anfield.