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Upside down world at FC Bayern: In Munich it feels like relegation

Towards midnight it became very clear how deep the problems are. “We need success experiences, positive moments. It’s all about winning. About security that you will then get back,” said Manuel Neuer as he left the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Thursday night.

Such sentences are more familiar from relegation battles. From players who haven’t won in a very long time and who are extremely insecure. From strikers who go what feels like an eternity without scoring. Taken on its own, it all sounded more like 1. FSV Mainz 05 or 1. FC Köln, who look back on winless streaks in the relegation vortex and try to convince themselves of hope. In any case, it didn’t sound like FC Bayern at all. The master’s choice of words and mood were extraordinary that evening in the Italian metropolis. The bitter thing for Bayern: Neuer is right. The captain was only saying what everyone had seen and felt in the previous 90 minutes.

After the 0:1 (0:0) in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League at Lazio Rome, eighth in the table in Italy, the German football record champions are at their lowest point. Coach Thomas Tuchel and his team are staggering towards a titleless season. Five points behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga – and now Bayern’s weak phase has also reached the Champions League, their last cup hope in this eventful season after an early exit from the DFB Cup.

Worried about your job? “No,” says coach Tuchel

After less than a year, the coaching question is being asked around the club. The 50-year-old Tuchel has come under enormous criticism. First the 0:3 in the groundbreaking top game of the Bundesliga in Leverkusen, now a defeat against an opponent to whom the Munich squad, which cost around a billion euros, is at least in theory clearly superior and, above all, offensively limited. For Tuchel it was already the fifth defeat in a knockout game with Bayern. A devastating result. And a worrying perplexity that sometimes comes through in the game and the statements of those involved.

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After the game, Tuchel was asked at the press conference in the historic stadium: Are you afraid for your job? Tuchel’s answer: “No.” To another question about whether he saw his job in danger, the coach replied: “You asked a question and I answered no.” Asked again: Why do you think that you continue to do so? are the right coaches for this team? Answer: “I would like to talk about the game.”

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Tuchel, who will remain Bayern coach at least for the time being, was then driven to the traditional banquet at the Waldorf Astoria team hotel. Jan-Christian Dreesen gave a speech in the ballroom in front of the coach, team, club employees and sponsors. The CEO did not comment on Tuchel.

Dreesen was more reminiscent of trips in the Champions League with the club grandees Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “When they lost 1-0 away, they always said: That’s a result you can live with. You can still win this at home,” he emphasized: “That’s the message we have to take with us: that this team has the quality and the will to progress.” And referred to the 75,000 spectators that the Munich Arena holds and the potential power of the crowd in the second leg against Lazio on March 5th.

Substitute against Leverkusen, set in Rome: But even with Thomas Müller in the starting line-up, FC Bayern failed to make a turn for the better in Rome

Those: dpa/Alfredo Falcone

Bayern point to the home advantage – that also shows a lot. There are currently far too few sporting arguments and hope-giving approaches in the star team’s game. Reaching the quarterfinals is still quite possible. But the state of the team must make the club think and doubt.

“The second half was characterized by uncertainty. It was almost slapstick, the way we saved ourselves from one mistake to the next,” said world champion Thomas Müller, whom Tuchel let play from the start – unlike in Leverkusen. “The sporting situation is not good. Anything but what FC Bayern imagines.”

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Similar to goalkeeper Neuer before him, Müller also spoke sentences that Bayern players rarely have to say: “We have to gain self-confidence from game to game and goal to goal.” In terms of self-confidence, the team is the opposite of a solid unit. “We have to discuss. The second half exposed our weaknesses.” When asked about the coach, Müller said to the reporters: “You are welcome to have these coaching discussions. We players are the wrong people to contact for this.”

In the first half, the team around midfield boss Joshua Kimmich showed improvement. But there is still so much missing: efficiency, self-confidence, creativity, functioning automatisms. That’s why Bayern lost the thread and had a poor performance in the second half.

“We’ll fight our way out of this together,” says the sports director

Superstar Harry Kane is also in a form crisis and missed a chance to score at the start of the game. Jamal Musiala could also have put Munich in the lead. In the end, Bayern could be happy that they didn’t lose by more: Lazio could have scored 2-0 or even 3-0 in the final phase.

Ciro Immobile, who once played for BVB, scored the decisive goal for Lazio against FC Bayern

Those: Getty Images/Paolo Bruno

“The key hasn’t been found yet,” said Tuchel about the team’s development with its ups and downs. “It is my responsibility to get the team there so that we can do and do better. Normally we reacted well after defeats.” After the game in Rome, people were frustrated and angry. “We have some construction sites,” said Tuchel. “We will not blame each other and will not deviate from our path. We will try to overturn the problem, we will stay together and carry on.” Such sentences are – like the situation – unusual for a Bayern coach and usually heard from coaches from completely different table regions.

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No wonder: a lot of things at FC Bayern on and off the pitch are far from the top international level. A very dangerous condition. The world club does not live up to its demands. On Sunday (5:30 p.m., DAZN) Bayern will play in the league against extremely strong VfL Bochum. “We’re all in the same boat,” said Christoph Freund, Bayern’s sporting director. “It’s not easy right now. We’ll fight our way out of this together.”

These sentences didn’t sound like self-confidence either. What if this is not currently there and the team is not broadcasting it. Everything at Bayern sounds and feels like a threatening crisis. In that respect it was a memorable evening in Rome.

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