Friday, 11 April 2014

Löw on Bayern-Dortmund: "I'm expecting nothing but the best", 11.04.2014

The two most dominant teams in recent Bundesliga history – Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – will face each other on Saturday (live on Sky at 18:30) in what is now billed as the German "Clasico". The clash is one of the highlights of the season for Joachim Löw, and also provides the Germany coach with a welcome opportunity to watch a number of his charges in action.

Löw gave an interview ahead of tomorrow's showdown to discuss the importance of the fixture, the dominance of quintuple winners Bayern Munich and what the rivalry between the sides means for the national team.

Question: Herr Löw, Bayern-Dortmund involves more national team players than any other fixture, doesn't it?

Löw: True. This match is obviously the best chance I have to see a large portion of the national team in action on two different sides. And there are a whole host of talented internationals from other countries too. I'm expecting nothing but the best. It's a special fixture – and one I always look forward to. The same goes for the millions of football fans all over the world who'll be following the game.

Question: It's the biggest fixture in the Bundesliga: some refer to it as the clash of the titans, others as the German "Clasico". Just how important do you think it is?

Löw: It's a clash between the two teams that have dominated the Bundesliga in recent years, so the "Clasico" is an apt name for it. The quality is just as high as Madrid-Barcelona in Spain or Inter-Juventus in Italy. Ultimately, it's a fixture that benefits the entire league, and German football in general, as millions of people around the world tune in to follow the action.

Question: The title has been won by either Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund each year since 2010. Do you think another team is capable of breaking their stranglehold on the domestic game?

Löw: It's difficult to say, but it certainly doesn't look like it at the moment. I still think that international football is the real benchmark for how good a team is, so that’s what clubs need to work towards. It's both desirable and important that German teams don't just reach the latter stages of the Champions League, but that we also have one or two clubs in the quarter-finals or semi-finals of the Europa League. Each time a new season gets underway, other clubs are always working hard in an attempt to achieve this. That's one of the Bundesliga's great strengths.

Question: Bayern Munich are a long way ahead of the chasing pack this season. What are the reasons for this and how do you view the club's current dominance?

Löw: It's an incredible achievement to win the championship at such an early stage of the season and I can only congratulate everyone involved at the club. Pep Guardiola has taken the team to a whole new level, really moulding them in his image in terms of dominance and ball possession. Bayern’s mentality is one of success at all costs, and they have a clear playing style they implement from the first minute to the last. The players radiate self-belief. Pep Guardiola demands results, and Bayern have the strength in depth to achieve them. That's definitely what sets them apart from their competitiors. They can deal with injuries; there’s always a great player who can step in.

Question: What impact does that have?

Löw: Bayern Munich have every chance of repeating last year's successes, and so their season is far from over – for example, the business end of the Champions League campaign is now approaching. I get the feeling they're quite comfortable in their role as the team to beat, or the favourites. I'm also delighted for our national team players at the club, of course – the title gives them vital momentum. And we still have some very important objectives to achieve this year.

Question: Bayern and Dortmund have very different playing styles. Which bears the closest resemblance to the German national team?

Löw: We've established our own system in the national team setup over the past few years. Ultimately, it depends on the players we have available for selection. With Mkhitaryan and Lewandowski at Dortmund and Robben and Ribéry at Bayern, both sides have key players influencing their style of play who don't represent Germany. So it goes without saying that we need to adapt our game to our strengths.

Question: Both clubs have world-class coaches at the helm, with Guardiola at Bayern and Klopp at Dortmund. How instrumental have they been to their clubs' success?

Löw: Both Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp have a clear philosophy that makes their respective sides so strong. They have a clear approach, drive their players on and transmit their ideas to them. They're both wonderful characters who've been crucial to their respective side's success.

Question: It's always a hotly-contested encounter when Bayern face Dortmund, with players on both sides often involved in verbal confrontations. Do you have to mediate between the Bayern and Dortmund fractions in the national team setup?

Löw: No. On the contrary, I get the feeling that the players are delighted to link up for international duty and to play together for Germany. You'll sometimes see Dortmund and Schalke players sitting at the same table, and the rivalry between those two clubs is enormous. We have common goals that unite us. The players forget their club allegiances when they're with the national team.

Question: What position do you see Philipp Lahm playing at the World Cup?

Löw: Philipp is our captain, and what I really like about him is that he always puts the team first. Any team would be lucky to have him in their side – no matter what position he plays in. We'll sit down with him and discuss the best solution prior to the World Cup, that’s what I've agreed with Philipp.

Question: Are you still considering the possibility of a call-up for Badstuber or Gündogan?

Löw: We don't want to put any pressure on either player. The number one priority is for our players to be healthy and completely injury-free. Only then can they be involved in our training sessions. That's the basic prerequisite for any involvement in the national team. The tournament in Brazil will be mentally and physically draining. So I need my players to be very resilient when our preparations start.

Question: Thomas Müller recently stated that his intention was to win the World Cup in Brazil. Do you share his opinion and how realistic is this goal?

Löw: Hearing players say this is music to my ears. Yes, we want to be world champions. But equally, we can't make any promises. Other countries have their eye on the same prize, and we need to show them respect because they play some wonderful football too.

Question: UEFA have decided to introduce the Nations League starting in 2018. What are your thoughts on this?

Löw: We always want to measure our progress by playing against the world's best teams. That's the only way to improve. If the Nations League gives us the opportunity to do this, then I don't have a problem with it. Especially as it won't increase the number of international matches on the calendar and Germany will still have enough time to face the big non-European nations, such as Brazil or Argentina.

Question: And finally, your prediction for the German "Classico"?

Löw: As a matter principle, I never like to predict results. But I’m sure that it'll be a match of the highest quality.

11 April 2014
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