“Thanks for your fantastic support in 2011–12!" After the final Bundesliga match at the Allianz Arena this season, the Bayern stars unrolled a huge banner bearing that slogan and paraded it in front of the home faithful. Basking in the hot, summery sunshine, the 69,000 full house sang and chanted in anticipation of the Champions League final, which Bayern famously reached three days earlier, and enjoyed an unspectacular but deserved 2–0 victory over south German rivals VfB Stuttgart.
“We took it very seriously," commented director of sport Christian Nerlinger, insisting there would be no let up in the last match of the league season, next Saturday's trip to relegation-threatened FC Köln: “You can expect the same attitude from us next week." Nerlinger was particularly pleased with the way the team shrugged off the energy-sapping encounter in Madrid: “Once again, we were very focused. The players who’ve not featured very much recently were more than up to it, and we ended up comfortably beating Stuttgart."
Faced with the side lying fifth in the table, who arrived in Munich undefeated in their last 10 matches, Jupp Heynckes again opted for plenty of squad rotation and rested a number of the heroes of Madrid, conscious of the effect of 120 minutes plus penalties in midweek. Manuel Neuer, Franck Ribéry and Jerome Boateng, who is nursing a minor knock, were omitted from the squad, while the likes of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben started on the bench.
Even without these top-notch players, FCB were “the more mobile and better team," Mario Gomez reasoned afterwards, “you couldn't tell we'd played on Wednesday, and we deserved to win." Gomez accepted an unselfish lay-off from Thomas Müller on 32 minutes to score his 26th league goal of term, with the busy Müller doubling the score on the break in stoppage time with his first league goal for more than a month.
“After this massive experience on Wednesday, it's good to win the bread-and-butter matches. It was a good game for the crowd and basically a good win for us," said Müller," although you have to say Stuttgart had their chances." The visitors, the top-scoring team since Christmas with 37 goals before kick-off, set off for home empty-handed, and one major reason for that was FCB keeper Jörg Butt. In his 387th and probably last top-flight outing, the veteran kept another clean sheet."
“He made sure we won today," said Gomez. “He made some outstanding saves," added Müller. Jörg somehow kept out Shinji Okazaki’s 36th minute header, and denied Vedad Ibisevic two minutes later when the Bosnia man was clean through on goal. The 37-year-old Butt, captain for the day in his farewell match on home soil, prevented Stuttgart levelling the score and was hailed by the fans accordingly.
Butt hoping for crowning glory
“Especially in the first half, the lads left a few gaps for Stuttgart so I'd have something to do," deadpanned the veteran, who is hanging up his gloves this summer. “It was great at this stadium with this atmosphere. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it," continued the keeper, who is now looking forward to “the crowning glory on 19 May" at the same venue.
Cologne, Dortmund and Chelsea are Bayern's remaining opponents over the next three weeks, with FCB hopeful of lifting two trophies. “We have to focus on Köln, and then it a highlight with the DFB Cup final. Only then will we turn to the Champions League," said Nerlinger, setting clear priorities for the players. “We have some fantastic weeks coming up," predicted Gomez.