Thiago Alcantara bullish about Bayern's Champions League chances
Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara is convinced his side can make a serious assault on the Champions League this season.
"We are still one of the three, four teams that everyone wants to beat," the 26-year-old Spain international told ESPN FC ahead of Bayern's second-leg tie with Besiktas on Wednesday.
The German champions travel to Istanbul with a seemingly unassailable 5-0 lead from the first game in Munich three weeks ago.
Thiago believes that "only small details" prevented them from making it to the final of Europe's top club competition in recent years and has credited coach Jupp Heynckes with making a number of improvements that could see the 72-year-old repeat his 2013 Treble with the Bundesliga giants.
"We have the same team but a mentality that's a little bit better," Thiago said.
"Maybe it's because the people know the trainer from before, and they want exactly what the trainer wants. This fusion makes the team a little bit more aggressive."
Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti was fired after a 3-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage in September. Heynckes' return has seen Bayern go on a devastating run of 25 wins, one draw and one solitary defeat in 27 matches across all competitions.
Better attitude and application from the players aside, Thiago hinted at more balanced tactical approach as the reason for the team's return to form.
"We have this German mentality of attack, of [playing on] counters and we are doing great," he said.
"We have this freedom to play, [while] keeping more safe behind. And we are conceding less goals than before."
As a result, confidence is high that Bayern can lift the European Cup for a sixth time this May.
"The Bundesliga is important for sure, and the cup is as well," Thiago said. "But winning the Champions League is the point of being at a club like Bayern."
Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC's German football expert and a regular guest on ESPN FC TV. He also writes for the Guardian. Twitter: @honigstein.