BERLIN Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich haven't set off any fireworks with their performances this season, but coach Carlo Ancelotti is confident the best is yet to come, starting at Ingolstadt on Saturday.
The Bavarians have been more a model of efficiency under the Italian than the high-scoring, high-speed freight train of past seasons under predecessor Pep Guardiola.
Their 1-0 nervous victory over struggling VfL Wolfsburg in the German Cup round of 16 on Tuesday was indicative of their current form. They can control the game and dominate possession, but they will not necessarily make their advantage count.
Bayern have won three of their four matches in all competitions so far in 2017, all by one goal. They drew last week's home game against Schalke 04 1-1.
"You cannot accuse the team of not being fully engaged," Ancelotti said.
"But it is clear the team lacks a bit of confidence at the moment. It is not always easy to flick the switch. My players have understood that we need to be more compact on the pitch."
"I think now that we have more games we will improve."
After Ingolstadt, Bayern host Arsenal in their Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday before travelling to ambitious Hertha Berlin, who are battling for a champions League spot.
Captain Philipp Lahm, who said this week that he will retire at the end of the season, warned that Bayern need to get better quickly or risk losing out on silverware this season.
"The team needs to know that if we play in the coming weeks as we have done, then we will be out of every competition very quickly," Lahm said.
Bayern's form has given some hope to Ingolstadt, struggling to avoid the drop.
"If you look at Bayern's last few matches then you know that we are not afraid of them," Ingolstadt's Alfredo Morales said. "We have always come close to beating them."
Champions Bayern, chasing a record-extending fifth consecutive league title, have extended their lead at the top to four points thanks partly to a slight dip in form by second-placed RB Leipzig.
"Maybe we have not yet reached our top level but what is certain is that this team has a lot of potential," said Bayern defender Javi Martinez. "In all the games that were tight the team showed it is there when it matters."
Leipzig, who have lost three of their last six league matches, need to beat Hamburg SV, brimming with confidence following two straight wins in league ands German Cup matches, if they are to stay on Bayern's tail.
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)