Mentality key, says Flick

Bayern's German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer at training on Wednesday, the day he extended his club contract until 2023.
Bayern's German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer at training on Wednesday, the day he extended his club contract until 2023.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Bayern coach wants league leaders to push themselves despite a lack of fan motivation

BERLIN • With the 12th man missing for the remainder of the Bundesliga season, Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick is concerned about the lack of the galvanising effect a crowd can have on players.

The German league became the first major sports competition to restart last week after more than two months on hiatus following an easing of coronavirus-enforced restrictions.

However, every game after the restart is being held behind closed doors for health and safety reasons.

As such, Flick believes his squad need to find it within themselves to motivate each other and maintain a winning mentality.

At his pre-match virtual press conference yesterday, he said: "What is decisive is mentality. Obviously, it is an advantage if you have higher quality on the pitch, but this is a situation which is not very easy. It is key that you bring that mentality to the pitch. It is important that the team pushes itself so as to cover the level of motivation that has gone missing with the empty stands."

Insisting the lack of spectators was not an excuse for standards to drop, he added: "Everyone of us has now played at least one time in front of empty stands. We know what to expect. Before our game last week (Bayern won 2-0 at Union Berlin), we had also trained at the Allianz Arena, so we know what to expect in terms of atmosphere."

Aside from the hollow atmosphere, the opening round of the Bundesliga restart went reasonably well, with observers noting there was no obvious drop in quality.

But injuries - at least half a dozen players had to be substituted - have highlighted worries about plunging straight into competitive action after a lengthy stoppage.

Bayern could be without central midfielder Thiago, who completed 90 minutes in Berlin, when they host Eintracht Frankfurt today because of a hip muscle problem.

The league has allowed teams to make five substitutions per match instead of the usual three though the upcoming flurry of fixtures leaves players even more vulnerable. The Bundesliga must end by June 30 to be contractually in compliance with sponsors and broadcasters, and around €300 million (S$465.9 million) in outstanding TV revenue could be pulled if obligations are not met.

Leaders Bayern are chasing a record-extending eighth consecutive league title and are four points ahead of second-placed Borussia Dortmund (54). Frankfurt are 13th in the table and lost at home to Borussia Monchengladbach last Saturday for a fourth straight Bundesliga defeat, but they humiliated Bayern 5-1 in November.

Even though Bayern were reduced to 10 men after nine minutes that day, that defeat cost Flick's predecessor Niko Kovac his job.

"Frankfurt overwhelmed us there with their dynamism," Flick said. "It's a different game, with different conditions. It starts at zero."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2020, with the headline 'Mentality key, says Flick'. Print Edition | Subscribe