Leaders Bayern eager to keep spirits high on the bench
BERLIN (Reuters) - Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich tried to boost the confidence of their big-name substitute's bench on Tuesday, saying all players will be called upon when the team gets into the full swing of three competitions.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes has been spoilt for choice since the recent Bundesliga mid-season restart and has left several players, including Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez and Claudio Pizarro, on the bench or even out of the squad completely.
Brazilian Luiz Gustavo, Ukraine international Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Jerome Boateng have also not featured much in recent weeks.
The Bavarians are 11 points clear in the Bundesliga with 15 wins from 19 games as they seek to end a two-season title drought.
"These are all players who can compete at the very top level, they are hugely motivated," Heynckes told reporters. "We do not have 11 starting players, we have 20 starting players."
Bayern were the biggest Bundesliga spenders in the last transfer season bringing in Spaniard Javi Martinez, Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic and Brazilian Dante.
The wealth of talent in a squad that reached the Champions League final last season was by no means low when the new signings arrived.
The competition for a starting spot has been fierce this season with Mandzukic becoming first-choice striker over former Bundesliga top scorer Gomez, who has missed much of the campaign through injury.
Martinez has also established himself as a starter.
Dutch winger Robben, however, has not seen much action since his return from injury and has started the last two league games on the bench.
"This is of course a pity but the players have to accept that," said Heynckes, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the end of the season.
"At the moment there is no need for big changes," added the coach, whose team beat VfB Stuttgart 2-0 away on Sunday. "We need to be successful and I will not risk anything.
"The players know I will rotate once we get to the busy weeks where we will be playing Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday."
Bayern are taking on Arsenal in the Champions League Round of 16 and meet holders Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup quarter-final next month.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Mark Meadows)
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