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Bayern Munich: Learn to challenge Barcelona and Real

Xinhua, September 30, 2015 Adjust font size:

Only 12 months ago Bayern Munich was in trouble.

The team was good enough to get through their group phase of the Champions League, but far from strong enough to make it to the top of the most important club competition in football. And that for a simple reason: The German champion was unable to substitute injured key players like Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben.

One year later, the 2013 Champions League winner has learned its lesson through painful defeats in the semifinal in the last two years against Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. With Pep Guardiola's team beating the Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb 5-0 (4-0)in their second Group F match of the 2015/2016 campaign (3-0 first game against Piraeus), Bayern has changed. Meaning: The Germans have added some special players to their squad - ones that are, more or less, of an equal caliber to the ones out injured.

These days Bayern can afford to leave Javier Martinez, Rafinha, Thomas Mueller and Xabi Alonso on the bench when they go into a group match like the one against the 14-time Croatian champion Zagreb.

Goals by Costa, Goetze and Lewandowski (3) handed Bayern an easy win despite the fact that Arturo Vidal, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are all out injured.

Despite the transfers of Douglas Costa (30 million euros from Shakhtar Donetsk) and Kingsley Coman (20 million from Juventus) - who are supposed to replace Ribery and Robben - Bayern A is not to a full extent equal with Bayern B - but much better than anything the club has been able to put out until now. It looks like the new Bayern will be strong enough to beat the best to be the very best this season.

The ease with which Bayern beat Zagreb (without a defeat in 45 consecutive games since November 2014) additionally showed a further change.

It is the mentality of a team and a coach like Pep Guardiola who are aware that it will be their last year together and they are desperate to make the best of it.

This time they want to get to the very top. After all Zagreb - stronger at home than away - beat Premier League club Arsenal 2-1 in their first group match. Zagreb was not regarded as a serious threat for Bayern in their arena. But Munich were giving it their all especially as new figures like Costa and Kingsley were looking to stake a claim for a regular place in the team.

Knowing the season's big goal (to win the Champions League) Bayern captain Philipp Lahm reminded his teammates of the secret behind such an undertaking: "What counts is to be top in the big games. It is, to be ready both physically and mentally."

In September 2015 Bayern is still to face an opponent of the same ilk. The first on the national stage will be next Sunday (October 4th) against their opponents in the 2013 Champions League final, Borussia Dortmund. Games like that will give a first indication as to just how good players like Costa or Coman are when it comes to the ability to adopt the special Bayern mentality.

But the first time Bayern seem to have found some truly adequate alternatives for Robben and Ribery. Mario Goetze tried and failed as did Xherdan Shaqiri (now at Stoke City). Arturo Vidal came from Juventus to add a bit of bite in midfield.

That Robert Lewandowski is this season taking advantage of every chance to score goals shows as well just how determined Bayern is at present. Last season Lewandowski missed out on winning the trophy for the league's top scorer, this season he seems to be not willing to be second again. Looking back only one week from now means to look back at 10 Lewandowski goals (7 league/3 Champions League).

In addition to "goal machine" Lewandowski, Thomas Muller is chipping in any number of goals. When it comes to the midfield or the defense, Xabi Alonso, Javier Martinez, David Alaba, Rafinha, Philipp Lahm, Thiago, Vidal, Juan Bernat, Medhi Benatia and Jerome Boateng can do several different jobs. Meaning: Bayern for the first time has high-quality back-ups - especially when it comes to international games. Injuries won't be the main reason for losing games anymore - at least not as easily as in the last two years.

Mario Goetze - who seemed to be out of touch after scoring the World Cup winning goal for Germany 2014 in Brazil - is obviously getting back on track after a difficult year. Being more in the center of the game seems to be a much more ideal position for him.

No question Bayern Munich in the 2015/2016 season has won a lot of stability and preciseness (nearly 90 percent of the passes against Zagreb were on target). At the same time club officials, coach Pep Guardiola and every squad member is keeping the bigger picture in mind. The biggest challenges are still ahead of them in the knockout phase of the Champions League next year. Endi