BERLIN (AP) Things are almost going too well for Bayern Munich as the Bundesliga resumes for the second half of the season.
Eleven points clear with no rival challenging for the championship, Bayern has already got one hand on a record-extending sixth consecutive title.
The Bavarian powerhouse also secured favorable draws in the German Cup and Champions League – against third-division Paderborn and Turkish side Besiktas, respectively – boosting confidence of another treble under Jupp Heynckes, the veteran coach revered by all at the club.
Heynckes, who led Bayern to the treble in his last stint in 2013, returned for his fourth spell in charge after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked in September for the side’s lackluster start.
Heynckes’ record since has only one blemish – the 2-1 defeat at his hometown club Borussia Moenchengladbach in November. Each of the other 15 games he has overseen ended in victory.
Now the club wants more – and not just for this season.
But the 73-year-old Heynckes, who has already been coaxed out of retirement, has always maintained that he was stepping in as a favor during a difficult time, and that he will not be staying on beyond the end of the season.
”I’ve already said everything about that,” Heynckes said to more questions on his future at the team’s winter training camp in Qatar. ”I don’t want to say anything more.”
Such is his authority and standing at the club – president Uli Hoeness described Heynckes’ return as ”getting six numbers in the lottery plus the jackpot” – he remains Bayern’s No. 1 candidate for next season.
Club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge praised Heynckes’ meticulous attention to detail, his work ethos, experience, temperament and way of dealing with the players.
Hoeness has clearly not given up hope that his old friend can be persuaded to change his mind. Players, too, have spoken in favor of the coach staying.
”Of course we can imagine that,” Arjen Robben said.
Heynckes will likely keep having to field questions on his future until Bayern names a successor or states it is giving up the chase, but his focus is clearly on the games at hand.
Heynckes’ side restarts the league on Friday at another of his former clubs, Bayer Leverkusen, which has lost only one of its last eight home games against Bayern and has made a solid start to the season under new coach Heiko Herrlich.
Bayer Leverkusen is on a 12-game unbeaten streak and hasn’t lost at home all season.
”It’ll be a very difficult game but we’re very well prepared,” Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said.
League top-scorer Robert Lewandowski and Germany defender Mats Hummels are fit after overcoming knocks, and Heynckes can call on a full squad apart from long-term absentees Manuel Neuer and Thiago Alcantara.
”We’re on a good path,” said new signing Sandro Wagner, who could make his Bayern debut.