Bayern looks for historic treble in German Cup
BERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich can crown a remarkable season on Saturday with victory in the German Cup final in Jupp Heynckes’ last game in charge.
Only Stuttgart stands in the way of Bayern completing its first treble, one week after the team finally won the Champions League and eight after they wrapped up the Bundesliga with a record six games to spare.
“We’re all hungry, we want to make ourselves immortal,” Bayern attacking midfielder Thomas Mueller said. “The cup is even more important now because it’s not just a trophy you can win. Now we can write history.”
Bayern would become the first German team to win the treble of domestic league, cup and European Cup, and the seventh overall after Celtic in 1967, Ajax in 1972, PSV Eindhoven in 1988, Manchester United in 1999, Barcelona in 2009 and Inter Milan in 2010.
“Every player has said it 100 times already: The treble was never there (to be won) before, so this is a huge motivation,” Mueller said.
It would also provide the perfect send off for Heynckes, who is making way for Pep Guardiola and making it increasingly difficult for the former Barcelona coach to match this season’s achievements.
Bayern captured its fifth European Cup last Saturday with a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in London — banishing painful memories of losing the final on penalties to Chelsea in Munich the year before — and broke a host of records in claiming the club’s 23rd German title after the best campaign in 50 years of the Bundesliga.
Now, attention has turned to what would be a record 16th German Cup.
Bayern midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is poised to match former Bayern and Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn’s record of six German Cup final victories.
“I didn’t know that,” the 28-year-old Schweinsteiger said with a grin.
Schweinsteiger insisted he was too focused on winning the game “to talk about the treble or whatever.”
Heynckes won the German Cup with hometown club Borussia Moenchengladbach as a player in 1973, but never as a coach.
“Of course personally I want to win the Cup but it’s not an obsession for me, because I’ve already experienced so many positive things over my long coaching career,” Heynckes told Friday’s press conference.
Bayern defender Dante and midfielder Luiz Gustavo will miss the game at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin after being called up by Brazil for training ahead of the Confederations Cup.
“I have rarely seen such disappointment in players,” Heynckes said. “On one hand the players worked all year for the championship, for the Champions League and of course for the German Cup, to be ready for it. Suddenly, two games before the final, you say, ‘No sorry, it’s not going to happen. You have to go to your homeland to take part in — let me say — an unimportant practice game.’”
Brazil has exhibition games lined up against England and France.
Heynckes added: “Personally I don’t understand it at all, and I told (Brazil coach Luiz) Felipe Scolari that.”
Bayern had already criticized the Brazilian Football Confederation putting the two players under “inhuman” pressure, with chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggesting the players were given the impression that their international careers would be over if they did not show up on time.
Heynckes said Belgian defender Daniel van Buyten will play in place of Dante, and Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia didn’t think the absence of two Brazilians would make a difference.
“They have two or three equally good players for each position,” said Labbadia, who lost the final four years ago with Bayer Leverkusen.
Stuttgart, which finished 12th in the Bundesliga, is playing its first final since 2007, when the then-Bundesliga champions lost 3-2 in extra time to Nuremberg.
“Anything can happen on any given day and we’re hoping that that day comes tomorrow,” Labbadia said.
Labbadia is nevertheless playing down his side’s chances of causing an upset.
“Bayern is the strongest team in Europe at the moment, if not the world. These two years without a title really spurred them on. To beat such an opponent would be something extraordinary,” Labbadia said.
Such is Bayern’s confidence that Rummenigge boasted during the Champions League celebrations that his side could beat Stuttgart even with an increased alcohol level.
“When you’ve achieved something as big as winning the Champions League you can let that slip. I’m not taking it personally,” Labbadia said.
Heynckes has not yet indicated if he will coach another side next season — Real Madrid is reportedly interested in his taking charge for a second spell — but the 68-year-old German has given strong hints he is thinking of retirement.
It’s yet another motivation for his players.
“We have to do it for the coach, too,” said Franck Ribery, who is close to extending his Bayern contract.
Labbadia believes, however, that Heynckes has already won enough.
“If the cup final is his last game as a coach, he has already achieved an extraordinary amount,” Labbadia said. “I always wish him well, but not on Saturday. Two titles in one season are enough.”