Jupp Heynckes defends Bayern Munich changes after slim win at Hamburg
Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes defended his team selection as the German champions edged past 10-man Hamburg 1-0 on Saturday to seal a third consecutive win since his return to the club for a fourth spell in charge.
In their 105th Bundesliga meeting since 1965, the two sides played out a goalless first half but Hamburg were reduced to ten men on 39 minutes after Gideon Jung was shown a red card for a foul on France international Kingsley Coman.
Record signing Corentin Tolisso's only goal of the game on 52 minutes decided the game, taking advantage of a neat pass from substitute Thomas Muller to poke home from close range.
Heynckes, 72, made five changes from the side that beat Celtic 3-0 in the Champions League in midweek. Niklas Sule and Rafinha bolstered the defence, while Arturo Vidal, James Rodriguez and Tolisso also came into the side.
But the coach shrugged off any questions about his selection, telling Sky Deutschland: "They are all internationals -- four current international players, plus [Brazil's] Rafinha who, in my opinion, has become a much better player the last few years.
"But the team has never played together in this formation and you have to practise all these things in training to gain harmony and to be a cohesive block -- and that wasn't the case in the first half."
The win in northern Germany draws Bayern level on points with leaders Borussia Dortmund, who are top only on goal difference after a 2-2 draw in Frankfurt.
Bayern travel to face Leipzig in the DFB Pokal on Wednesday, before hosting the east German side in the Bundesliga in Munich next Saturday.
With the games coming thick and fast, Heynckes said: "I took the risk because we constantly have this Wednesday-Saturday rhythm, so I simply have to reduce the players' workloads. But they are all seasoned professionals who have earned a chance to play after training excellently."
Muller came on at the break for the ineffective James, but the German international had to go off with a muscle injury immediately after setting up the crucial goal and was limited to seven minutes of action.
Commenting on his captain's injury, Heynckes said: "We have to check it out in due course. He will have a scan; he said he picked up a cramp and a hardening. I hope it's only that but we will find out the results tomorrow."
Despite numerous chances to add to their lead against the depleted home side, Bayern were unable to extend their advantage. In addition, Heynckes bemoaned his side's profligacy in front of goal.
"I was pleased with the second half because we created a great deal of chances, but we have to convert these -- if it's 2-0 the game is over," he said.
"After the break we played better, especially towards the end when we had four clear chances, and if you score the 2-0 then you are on the road to victory. However, we were nervy right up until the final minute."
Nevertheless, the experienced coach said he was expecting a tougher game than many pundits predicted against struggling Hamburg.
He added: "Last year Bayern won 1-0 in Hamburg, and the year before 2-1, so it's always difficult here. Before the game, the result was the only thing that was talked about, but I have always made the experience that you always have to first play the 90 or 93 minutes.
"We found it difficult in the first half. We did not play at a high tempo, we were not precise enough with our positional play -- and then of course it is difficult score goals.
"You have to win these sort of games and we have achieved that. We will analyse the match again and we will talk about our first-half display."
Heynckes also paid tribute to a fighting performance from the home side.
"HSV were highly motivated and fought outstandingly well, they gave everything for their home crowd from the first minute until the last," he said.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.