Winning may not be enough for Guardiola

Buildup to Champions League semi-final at Real Madrid has seen Catalan speak of leaving Bayern despite record season.

    Guardiola took Bayern to a record 19 wins in a row on the way to the German Bundesliga title [EPA]
    Guardiola took Bayern to a record 19 wins in a row on the way to the German Bundesliga title [EPA]

    In a world where Manchester United can crown the head of a new dynasty in July and apply the guillotine to the neck of their chosen one just 10 months later, it is perhaps not surprising that Pep Guardiola is also taking flak at Bayern Munich.

    The difference between the two is that from the time Guardiola walked into his office in July until his team lifted the German title on March 25, he had lost precisely zero matches in the Bundesliga, had won the league in record time, and got an unprecedented 19 wins in a row.

    He was also just about to dump Moyes' United out of the Champions League quarter-finals, staying on course to defend the treble won by his predecessor Jupp Heynckes.

    That feat puts Bayern into a semi-final first leg against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, but Guardiola has already had to defend his tenure, not least in the face of criticism from Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer  – and may even end up at replacing Moyes at Old Trafford if British media reports on Tuesday are to be believed.

    No hard feelings

    Guardiola said last week he would walk away with no hard feelings if Bayern decided they didn't like his playing style, or the fact that the Bavarians have one win, a draw and two defeats in the four games since securing the Bundesliga.

    And he added before Wednesday's match that Real may have the edge, having recovered from their own mini-slump to beat his former team Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.

    Bayern's season

    Defended their Bundesliga title with a record seven games to spare, and were undefeated up to that point.
    Won 19 matches in a row in title run-in.
    Were 53 league games unbeaten stretching back to last season before being defeated by Augsburg on April 5.
    Still on course to defend Champions League and German Cup titles.

    "Yes Madrid have a certain advantage in that respect," Guardiola told Spain's Marca newspaper.

    "We won the league much earlier and that meant our rhythm dropped a little but we will try to get back to our level as soon as possible.

    "But that's a normal thing because we were playing league games with nothing at stake.

    "Madrid's enthusiasm will be greater than ours right now after winning the Copa final but we will try to be competitive at the Bernabeu."

    As Barca coach Guardiola won nine, lost three and drew five matches against Real, beating them in the 2011 semi-finals on the way to his second Champions League title in charge of the team, for whom he also won the European Cup as a player in 1992.

    "Every time I have gone to the Bernabeu, as a player and as a coach, I have never in my head gone there as the favourite," the 43-year-old said.

    "Madrid deserve a lot of respect for all their history. They are always a strong team whoever is the coach because they have a lot behind them: great players, fans and a great history."

    The latest coach to try and claim a record-extending 10th European crown for Real is Carlo Ancelotti, also in his first season in charge after taking over from Jose Mourinho.

    Ancelotti may have to do without world player of the year and top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, although the likes of Gareth Bale have filled in well during the Portuguese forward's four-match injury absence.

    "I always believe that the great players, however small the chance they have, will play on these occasions," Guardiola, who correctly made the same prediction about Wayne Rooney in the quarter-finals, said.

    "What can I say about Cristiano? He has been at that level for many years, but not just him. He is very strong but without him Madrid are also a team."

    Bayern host Real at the Allianz Arena in the return leg next week, with the winners going on to face Atletico Madrid or Chelsea in the final in Lisbon on May 24.

    Paul Rhys is a freelance sports reporter writing for Al Jazeera from Paris. Follow him on @PaulRhys_Sport or go to

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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