Even a host of injuries failed to prevent Bayern Munich from delivering a statement to its chief Bundesliga rivals, with Thomas Müller declaring the hunt for a record-extending eighth successive title is on.
Müller started Bayern on its way to a 4-0 win over defensively minded Hertha Berlin and said it was the perfect response to league leader Leipzig and fourth-place Borussia Dortmund’s wins the day before.
“It was an even better response. We weren’t behind at any stage, nor did we have to worry about the result,” Müller said, referring to Leipzig’s 3-1 win over Union Berlin and Dortmund’s 5-3 success in Augsburg. “We’ll see how it continues.”
Bayern was missing defenders Niklas Süle, Lucas Hernández and Javi Martínez through injury, with forward Kingsley Coman also out and midfielder Joshua Kimmich suspended, but still had enough quality to win convincingly.
“You never know exactly how it’s going to go after the winter break, even when you’ve worked well,” Müller told reporters after the game. “But in view of the current situation, where we don’t have 15 to 20 experienced professionals fit, you have to say the youngsters did well when they came in.”
While Canadian teen Alphonso Davies made his 10th consecutive league start, he was replaced by 18-year-old forward Leon Dajaku for the last 10 minutes. The 20-year-old Michael Cuisance also played.
“The second half was very pleasing. We controlled the game very well in the first half but didn’t have the faith perhaps to risk a little more,” Müller said. “Hertha had a very passive plan, or so I saw it. They were very compact at the back, and so the first goal was the classic ‘untying of the knot’ as you say in football. We had a bit more fun after that.”
Asked about the need for reinforcements, the 30-year-old forward replied, “If the results go our way in the next weeks, we don’t need to strengthen. And if the results don’t go our way, then we will have had to strengthen.”
Müller, who also set up Ivan Perisic for Bayern’s fourth goal, acknowledged the team was under pressure after Leipzig moved seven points clear the day before, but that it now has confidence to continue the chase. Bayern hosts Schalke, which has been impressing under new coach David Wagner, on Saturday.
“We’re still a very competitive team that’s capable of delivering when it must,” said Müller, who praised the competitiveness of the league.
“The Bundesliga is very attractive. The games are exciting. The game in Augsburg (vs. Dortmund) was super to watch. Exciting games. Every opponent can hurt the other a bit, even if you can see that the more talented team often has its nose ahead after 90 minutes. Normally it’s not the case that there are teams here in Germany that simply give away points,” Müller said.
Bayern was six points behind Dortmund at the same stage last year, when it recovered to claim its seventh straight title. Now, after five wins in a row, it’s four points behind Leipzig,
“It’s not much better but we’ll stay on the case,” Müller said. CIARÁN FAHEY, BERLIN, AP