This article is part of a partnership with Grup 14, an organization dedicated to Futbol Club Barcelona and supporters around the world. The Pep Episodes is created by Alex Truica and originally published at Grup14.com.
A slap in the face, a pat on the back, a vigorous hug – Pep Guardiola was very happy after the game in Wolfsburg and congratulated his players in his usual expression of affection. Bayern won 2-0 against the Wolves in a place they already suffered a heavy defeat last season (1-4), so apparently, in Guardiola’s eyes, this win was an important step forward if not a milestone in the development of his team. So Guardiola wanted to express “a very, very big compliment to the team.”
“The victory was very, very important for us today. We absolutely wanted the three points,” said David Alaba after Saturday’s encounter with Wolfsburg. Kingsley Coman and Robert Lewandowski secured the win after the hour mark – but it was Franck Ribéry who made the biggest impact and assisted (even if a little bit lucky) both goals.
Ribéry’s return helps Bayern – but it doesn’t help Mario Götze
“He does Bayern good: Ribéry convinces as a supersub and shows that one shouldn’t write him off”, kicker sports magazine noted, “his presence is refreshing” for Bayern’s game. Captain Philipp Lahm said about Ribéry: “He was injured for very, very long, this takes time. He already played very well on the last weekend, and he helped us enormously today. It’s important for Franck to get back to his rhythm.” “This is extraordinary class, you shouldn’t write players like that off,” Sporting Director Matthias Sammer lauded the often injured frenchman. With Ribéry, Bayern have another weapon on the wing – especially since Douglas Costa isn’t in the best form at the moment.
The one to suffer from Ribéry’s substitution was Mario Götze, who is fit again but sat on the bench the whole game. After the final whistle, he wasn’t particularly happy when he went to the locker room. “You are allowed to be annoyed, since all of us want to play all the time,” Lahm said about Götze, “it’s just a matter of time when he’ll get his chance.” Sammer said: “For Mario it might be a little bit uncomfortable, but it’s plausible to me. There’s no time for experiments. He’ll get his minutes.” After the press asked Guardiola about that, the Catalan explained: “We have seven wingers and I have to make a decision. If Mario plays, you are asking me why Thomas [Müller] didn’t play, or why Robben or Lewandowski didn’t.”
A crucial week for Bayern
So Götze has to be patient. This time, Ribéry got his chance – and Bayern needed his impact to win the game in Wolfsburg. “There are easier away matches, and it’s a decisive week for us with games against Wolfsburg, Mainz and away to Borussia Dortmund. So it was crucial to start with three points in Wolfsburg,” added Lahm. According to Guardiola it’s “one of the most important weeks of the season”. On Wednesday, the surprising good 1. FSV Mainz 05 is visiting the Allianz Arena. Mainz just has convincingly beaten Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 and are fifth in the Bundesliga table, just two goals shy of Champions League qualification. Even Robben called it a “crucial week”. Bayern seem to be very focused in the last period of their campaign.
With two more victories the Bavarians could take “a giant stride” towards a fourth championship title in a row. Lahm explained: “Our goal is to travel to Dortmund with at least an eight-point lead and go on to win there. Then we’re 11 points clear, and this sets us well on our way to the title. Then it will be very, very hard to catch up with us.”
The Pep Episodes is a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich exclusively written for Grup14 by Alex Truica, a freelance sports journalist and editor. You can follow him on Twitter.