Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal has urged his players not to lose focus as they attempt to cast Inter Milan out of the Champions League.
Bayern, who fell 1-0 to Inter at the final hurdle of last season’s tournament, are within 90 minutes of exacting revenge on the European champions when they visit Munich on Tuesday.
Bayern hold a 1-0 aggregate going into the home leg of their last-16 tie after Mario Gomez stunned Inter with an injury-time winner at the San Siro a fortnight ago.
But Bayern’s preparations have been interrupted by the news van Gaal would have his contract cut short at the end of the season, ending his two-year tenure at the German powerhouse.
The Dutch manager, who confirmed he will depart Bayern no matter the outcome of their Champions League campaign, pleaded with his squad to forget his squabble with the club’s owners and concentrate on reaching the quarter-finals.
“A professional football player must focus always on the next game, which is not that easy, because everything affects players’ concentration,” van Gaal said.
“We had a very good game against Hamburg (winning 6-0 on Saturday) and it was a very important victory, so we have renewed confidence in ourselves.”
“But Inter are very strong opponents; we have to be very careful.”
“At the San Siro, Inter played the same way as they did in last year’s final. From my point of view, we were the better side in both games; one we won, one we lost.”
“Football is always about who scores the goals. My players have to be very focused, especially during opening minutes, so they can size up Inter’s tactics and respond.”
“Bayern are a great club, perhaps the best organised club in the world. Any coach would love to work here, and since my relationship with my players has been very good, I am a little sad that I will be leaving in the summer.”
“Even if we win the Champions League, nothing will change; we will go our separate ways because (my and the board’s) philosophies are very different.”
“But we cannot think about the past now. We must focus on the future and not forget that Bayern, the club and its fans, are the most important thing.”