Pep takes first misstep while Klopp gets redemption | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 07.04.2014
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Pep takes first misstep while Klopp gets redemption

What a difference a round can make. In Dortmund, things are back on an even keel, while for Bayern things aren't quite as perfect as they were last week. We look back - and ahead at the Champions League.

All you need to read to understand why Bayern Munich's record 53-game unbeaten streak came to an end in Augsburg on Saturday is an unusually crass non-sequitur by Manuel Neuer.

"We took the Augsburg game seriously, but the most important thing today was that nobody got injured - that was the name of the game," Bayern's keeper told reporters after his side ran out 1-0 losers, seemingly unaware of the absurdity of what he was saying.

The fact is that Bayern blew their chance at an undefeated season because they took their opponents for granted. Coach Pep Guardiola hasn't gotten much wrong this season, but his decision to leave Philipp Lahm, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery at home and hand starts to a trio of developmental players could hardly have been wider of the mark.

Bayern may have dominated the Bundesliga in record fashion this season, but merely donning the Munich kit doesn't make you good enough to beat one of Germany's better sides. The defeat to Augsburg was Bayern's third winless game in a row. The last time that happened Louis van Gaal was in charge.

So what, a lot of people will say. Bayern have already wrapped up the Bundesliga title. What does it matter if they drop domestic matches?

In terms of the German championship, the Augsburg result is indeed irrelevant, but not winning sometimes becomes contagious. In resting his top stars, Guardiola is risking them losing the rhythm necessary for even the top players to perform in the clutch. Bayern failed to close the door on Manchester United in the Champions League, and it's possible - if not very likely - that last week's 1-all draw may come back to haunt them, when the two teams meet for the reverse fixture on Wednesday.

What's more, if Bayern's disinterested approach to the rest of the domestic season continues, it could hurt other teams as well.

Non-level playing field

Pep Guardiola

Pep got it all wrong on Saturday

Make no mistake about it: disinterest is the correct term. Ahead of the Augsburg match, Guardiola stated that Bayern's main target in the Bundesliga was "over." It's difficult to be less ambiguous than that.

That and Guardiola's radical squad rotation on Saturday haven't sat well with other coaches, whose teams are trying to qualify for Europe or avoid relegation.

"When I look at the starting eleven, I have to say you make your own luck," Frankfurt coach Armin Veh grumbled. "If they do that against teams playing for the Europa League or trying to beat the drop, I'd say that's not right."

Schalke's commercial manager Horst Heldt agreed.

"It's not good form if you behave in a way that causes problems for other teams," Heldt complained.

Veh and Heldt have a point. Bayern still have Bundesliga matches against relegation candidates Braunschweig, Hamburg and Stuttgart, who potentially stand to benefit compared with teams like Hannover or Nuremberg, who played a full-strength Bayern still eager to wrap up the title. Schalke may also feel aggrieved that they had to face Bayern in early March while Champions League rivals Dortmund tackle them in mid-April.

The moral of the story: while it's legitimate to protect mainstay players from injury, teams have to field competitive squads, even if they have little to gain from a given match.

Klopp gets some revenge

Klopp hugs Lewandowski

Klopp is all smiles again - at least for now

There's no question that Dortmund will be giving it their all, despite prohibitive odds, when they try to overturn a three-goal deficit against Real Madrid on Tuesday in the Champions League. Jürgen Klopp nearly bit the heads off reporters last week for suggesting the cause was hopeless after his side lost in Madrid.

Klopp got noticeably pricklier this season, as it became increasingly evident just how distant a second-best Dortmund are to Bayern Munich. Some critics even suggested that the excitable Klopp, formerly everyone's media darling, was an out-of-control hothead who needed anger-management therapy.

Klopp got a measure of satisfaction on Saturday. Not only did he manage to avoid making any new enemies among officials and reporters, despite his injury-ridden squad falling behind at home to Wolfsburg, he also showed his tactical acumen in engineering a 2-1 comeback win.

"Anyone who saw us celebrating after the final whistle knows how much relief we felt," Klopp said. "If we'd lost, we'd have put ourselves under murderous pressure."

Klopp nearly jumped out of his sneakers at the end of that match, and indeed, he deserves much of the credit for the win. His halftime substitutions of little used Erik Durm and Milos Jojic for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nuri Sahin turned the tide in the match.

Pep Guardiola has deservedly gotten countless accolades for his tactical creativity this season. But in round 29, Jürgen Klopp reminded us that he's no slouch either.

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