Soccer

Bayern has learned lessons from last season loss

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MUNICH (AP)

Bayern Munich stars say the heart-breaking loss to Chelsea on penalties in last season's Champions League final at home strengthened the team's mental frame and determination to win everything this season.

''For me personally, the loss last year only served to give me more motivation for this season,'' forward Thomas Mueller said. ''It would have been great to have won last year at home, for our fans, but for us it's important to win the title, not where we win it. This season we seem to play better abroad anyway.''

Outgoing coach Jupp Heynckes says the team acquired key players in the offseason that particularly gave bulk and stability to its defense and helped the team dominate the season.

Heynckes and several of his stars spoke to the media Tuesday in the build-up to the Champions League final against Bundesliga rival Borussia Dortmund on May 25 at Wembley.

Bayern players expect the first all-German final to produce a tense, close match between two teams with no tactical secrets between them.

''Both teams know each other well, there are no secrets. The coaches know each other. But a final is always an open affair with equal chances,'' Heynckes said. ''But every coach has some ideas and it's up to the players to execute them. So far this season, my players have done this very well.''

After going through two seasons without a trophy, Bayern can complete a unique treble this season. It won the Bundesliga championship with a record six games to spare and it is also in the German Cup final, one week after the Wembley final.

''We have a better squad this season, the new signings integrated well and we have not had many injuries,'' said Bastian Schweinsteiger, described by Heynckes as ''currently the best midfielder in the world.''

Bayern hopes to finally win the title in its third final in four years.

''It's time,'' Mueller said. ''If you lose three finals, you would get the label of a loser, and that would not be unjustified.''

Arjen Robben will have a chance at redemption, after missing a penalty in extra time against Chelsea and becoming the target of loud boos from Bayern fans.

''It's nice to play finals, but you also need to win,'' Robben said. ''Last year was very disappointing.''

Heynckes said Bayern played a great season last year using only 14-15 players.

''This season we are using 20-22. We got top signings with character that fits into our team. We got better physically and our defense is now, I won't go so far as to say perfect, but very good.

''That's the priority in modern football and that's why we are playing such attractive football,'' said the 68-year-old coach, who hinted strongly that he would retire after the season. Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona coach, is already set to take over at Bayern next season.

After losing to Chelsea, Bayern took on defensive midfielder Javi Martinez in a Bundesliga transfer record of ?40 million. It also signed Brazilian defender Dante and Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic. All three have become backbones of the team, with Mandzukic pushing Germany striker Mario Gomez to the bench.

With one match remaining in the Bundesliga, Bayern is 22 points ahead of Dortmund, with a 94-15 goal difference and only one loss in the domestic season. In the Champions League semifinals, Bayern dispatched Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate. Bayern's only loss away came in the early Champions League group stage at BATE Borisov. It has lost at home once in the Bundesliga and to Arsenal in the Champions League in the round of 16.

''We are mentally very strong and we have this clear target to win every match,'' Heynckes said. ''In all my years as coach, I have never seen players so focused, not influenced by outside things. After such a disappointment last year we bounced back and are playing such a great season.''

Schweinsteiger said he could see the great motivation in all of his teammates.

''All of us on the squad can step in and play when needed, we have a better squad than last season,'' said Schweinsteiger, who missed a penalty in the shootout in last year's final.

But he also put the final in perspective: ''I won't live longer if I win.''

Bayern returned to practice Tuesday after spending the weekend celebrating the Bundesliga title. The trophy was officially presented Saturday.

''We've had too many parties the last 10 days, now we return to hard work,'' captain Philipp Lahm said.



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