Jupp Heynckes has said Bayern Munich are “hungry and highly motivated” for Champions League success this season.
Seeking a sixth consecutive Bundesliga title, Bayern have moved 18 points clear at the top and reached the DFB Pokal semifinals with a 6-0 win over third division Paderborn on Tuesday.
Bayern face Besiktas in the Champions League round of 16 later this month, aiming to repeat their 2012-13 win under the veteran coach.
“When I arrived at the club in October we were five points behind Borussia Dortmund. We definitely want to be successful in the Bundesliga and the German Cup,” Heynckes said at a news conference ahead of Saturday’s Bundesliga game against Schalke.
“Winning the Champions League is a massive challenge for every team. The team is hungry and highly motivated — many of our players have not yet won the Champions League.
“However, success in the Champions League often depends on the draw and form on the night, but Bayern has many hugely experienced players and vast experience in the competition.
“We have developed and made great strides in many aspects since the winter training camp in Qatar. We have perfected our play — you just don’t turn up and play like we did in Paderborn on Tuesday. We have worked hard for that success.”
Top scorer Robert Lewandowski is aiming to find the net for the 11th consecutive Bundesliga home game and surpass Jupp Heynckes’ own record for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1970s.
“We have joked with each other about this,” Heynckes said.
“Today’s generation of players knows everything about how us old sweats played the game. A journalist is creative and has to check what he writes but I didn’t actually know about this record. But I can appease you — Robert will start the game and won’t be subbed unless he is playing badly.”
Heynckes confirmed that Thiago Alcantara has recovered from a thigh injury which has sidelined him since November.
“It’s looking good at the moment –everyone is fit apart from Manuel Neuer,” he said, before adding: “I will not risk anything with Thiago and he doesn’t make the squad.
“I will be careful with Thiago and hand him his comeback in Wolfsburg next week. It’s pleasing to have another top player back. Javi Martinez will also return and it’s vitally important in the coming months to have all players fit and available.
“Peter Hermann [Heynckes’ assistant] told me today that the 18th player in our squad could play in our best starting XI. There’s very little difference in quality in our squad.”
Schalke midfielder Leon Goretzka will move to Bayern on a free transfer this summer and the Germany international has been criticised for agreeing the transfer to the Bundesliga champions.
Asked about the transfer and the possibility of Goretzka potentially facing his future employer at the weekend: “I think he’s handling the criticism very well. But it hasn’t been easy for him as he was carrying an injury until Wednesday and wasn’t able to deliver top performances.
“He is very mature for his age and understands the fans reaction as well, “he said.But this type of move has always happened in the Bundesliga, it used to be between Bayern and Monchengladbach and we also experienced this situation with Neuer. I think he is quite relaxed about it and handling it very well.”
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.