Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola said his side must show the form that carried them to a 24th Bundesliga title last month when they face Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.
The European champions sealed the title without so much as losing a game as they amassed a 53-game unbeaten streak in the Bundesliga before suffering consecutive defeats to Augsburg and Borussia Dortmund earlier this month.
A hard-fought 2-0 win over bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday was Bayern’s first in four league games and Guardiola is looking for a continued upturn in performance against the nine-time European champions.
“In 27 games in the Bundesliga we conceded 13 goals and then we conceded seven in three games after so our focus dropped a bit because we had already won the league.
“I was happy in the last game because although we didn’t play well, we recovered our mentality and spirit to win and I hope tomorrow we will maintain this level because against Madrid we have to have great team spirit to get to the final.”
Bayern are looking to become the first team in the Champions League era to retain the trophy.
Guardiola knows from experience how difficult that feat is as he fell short at the semi-final stage twice when trying to do so during his four years in charge of Barcelona.
And despite their dip in recent weeks, the Spaniard lauded his players acceptance of the changes he has implemented this season despite winning an historic treble last season.
“It shows how difficult it is to win the Champions League or retain the title. A team that won last year will always find it difficult to win again because, not just Bayern, but every team in Europe competes to win it.
“They have good presidents who spend a lot of money, they buy good players and they compete.
“Normally when you win a title you lose your desire and focus a little. That is why I am so proud of my team because last year they won everything and the coach changed, yet they still accepted my little changes and this year we have won the Bundesliga, we are in final of the Cup and semi-finals of the Champions League.”
World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo is a minor injury doubt for Madrid as he has missed Real’s last four games due to a hamstring injury.
The Portuguese is expected to feature against Bayern after returning to full training with his teammates over the past few days.
Guardiola said he hoped Ronaldo is fit to play despite the danger he could post to his side’s chances of reaching the final for a third consecutive year.
“I hope he plays. The fans want to see the best players and without doubt he is one of the best.”