BERLIN – Bayern Munich could have been forgiven for approaching Tuesday’s German Cup semi-final at Bayer Leverkusen with a modicum of trepidation given their opponents’ fine form in recent weeks.
Instead mighty Bayern were 2-0 up inside nine minutes and coasted to a 6-2 win with Thomas Mueller bagging a hat-trick.
Jupp Heynckes’ side, who already had wrapped up the Bundesliga title on April 7, looked like they would score on every attack and displayed a verve which showed just how much they are enjoying their football.
“It was a demonstration of football for long periods,” Heynckes said. “We turned in an absolutely top performance against strong opponents. We knocked out Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and a highly talented Leverkusen team. We’re in good form.”
Clever flicks, storming runs and even an elegant pirouette for Mueller’s third summed up a performance which Champions League semi-final opponents Real Madrid will have watched through gritted teeth.
Bayern are very much on for the treble, which they previously won for the first time in Heynckes’ last spell in charge in 2013.
Now the 72-year-old is retiring for a second time and Bayern are in such great fettle that a second perfect leaving present looks very possible.
First they must negotiate that Champions League semi against holders Real, the team that knocked out the Germans in the quarter-finals last season.
But Bayern are a better side now and go into next Wednesday’s first leg in Munich as arguably the favourites.
Bayern have scored at least four goals in four of their last six matches in all competitions and are unbeaten in that spell.
Real are in decent form too but if Cristiano Ronaldo has a bad game, the Spaniards invariably struggle.
Bayern, in contrast, have Robert Lewandowski, Mueller, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thiago Alcantara as potential match-winners each game.
Losing midfielder Arturo Vidal to injury for the rest of the season is a blow but Bayern can cope, as proved against Leverkusen when they also showed tenacity in pulling away from the hosts again after the score was 2-1.
“It was an advertisement for German football,” said Mueller. “We rounded off some of our moves very well, we were very efficient. The team’s performance was superb. Of course we want more. We can feel more is possible.”
The German Cup final on May 19 in Berlin will be against Schalke or an Eintracht Frankfurt team coached by Bayern’s future boss Niko Kovac.
Bayern will fully expect to comfortably beat either side, showing the vast gulf there now is in the German game given Schalke are second in the Bundesliga.
There is also a growing sense of unity at Bayern. Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti won Bundesliga titles but given they missed out on European glory, the experiment with foreign managers previously alien to Germany partly failed.
By bringing back Heynckes after Ancelotti’s sacking, anointing former Bayern player Kovac and announcing that their ex-striker Miroslav Klose will be a youth coach, Bayern are pursuing a new path where people need to have the club in their blood to work there.
SportBild reported on Wednesday that president Uli Hoeness also wants former Bayern midfielder Mehmet Scholl back as reserve team coach.
It looks like a clear policy which they hope leads to further domination in the years ahead.
The only big stumbling block would be if talismanic striker Lewandowski decides it is time to head to the riches of Real in the close season.
But if he helps Bayern secure a second treble in five years in the coming weeks, his mission at Bayern will have been fulfilled and the way they are playing at the moment, few would bet against such a triumph.