Bayern Munich striker Thomas Muller is not quite sure about how to approach games behind closed doors. The 30-year-old Bavarian-born forward is the kind of player to be most affected by playing games devoid of the usual emotional atmosphere.
German football is preparing to start playing games in front of empty stands in May to finish the 2019/2020 season in times of the coronavirus crisis. First and second tier teams are preparing for the new challenge. After two weeks of cyber training at home, most clubs have started training in small groups under strict rules set up by health authorities.
"We might experience these games like the final training session in advance of a final in the Champions League," Muller told Xinhua news agency in a recent interview.
The 2014 world champion spoke about Bayern's squad getting along reasonably well with the strange situation. He said Bayern is one of the favourites to win the Champions League.
He expects other cornerstones of Bayern's squad to follow the example of head coach Hansi Flick and himself. After Flick and Muller extended their contracts with the 2013 treble winner, negotiations with Manuel Neuer, David Alaba and Thiago Alcantara are in progress.
The team's goals remain the same despite the uncertainty caused by the situation. The national leagues are under shutdown since mid-March in most European countries. As for games behind closed doors, Muller is trying to figure out a way of approaching them.
"The atmosphere could be similar to the one we experience at the last training session in the arena before a Champions League final. Your mind is determined to win the final, and you need to be entirely focused until kick-off," Muller commented.
At present, this strategy seems the most suitable to face unusual games for him, the former German international said.
"We will face 90 minutes without feedback from outside. It will be different from what we were used to over the decades."
He said he is primarily missing normal locker room life, adding it is an excellent motivation to be back to reduced training on the pitch. "You see your teammates in other groups from a distance of 50 meters, but you see them and talk about their feelings over the distance," the attacker emphasized.
Training in small groups is better than attacking the flower vases in the living room at home. Muller praised Bayern's efforts to provide variety in cyber training "as they even came up with a ball artist."
Teams that manage to deal with the circumstances best will be the ones successful in the end. "It is part of our job to accept the situation and address the requirements."
Training efforts will increase as soon as a fixed date for a restart is announced. Currently, things are still left in the uncertain.
Several changes will stay a challenge. He never counted much on the assumed advantage of games in front of the home crowd. "I don't think it will be a great advantage to play home games under these conditions.
After Bayern's last coach Niko Kovac left him out of the team several times last autumn, he considered joining a new club. "You might accept to sit outside when the team is winning games, but you don't when results are far from expectations," he said, adding he has the feeling to have returned to one of the team's influencers.
It was vital for him to see a convincing perspective at Bayern for him and the entire team. The current squad is one of the best in the club's history, he added.