Bayern München have reached the Champions League semi-final for the fifth time in a row, taking a big step towards the final in Milan on May 28th. Both legs of their quarterfinal tie against Benfica were hard-fought encounters, with the team from Bavaria coming out on top - winning 3-2 on aggregate. World Goalkeeper of the Year Manuel Neuer sat down with DFB.de to offer his thoughts on the first goal he conceded and the team he wants to face in the next round. The draw takes place on Friday at 12:00 CEST in Nyon.
Question: Mr. Neuer, you have reached the semi-final. How would you sum up last night’s match?
Manuel Neuer: We did very well overall. We were facing a very strong side, and the tie showed once again that you can’t underestimate anyone in the Champions League, especially in the knockout phases. It was a tight match.
Question: How did you see their first goal, when you were too late coming out and missed the cross?
Neuer: I should have stayed in the goal. Whether I would have stopped it had I stayed on my line is another question entirely. I saw that Raúl Jiménez would get to the ball first, so I made the decision to come out of my goal. In the end, I was a little bit too late.
Question: Benfica went 1-0 up and posed a threat throughout the entire 90 minutes.
Neuer: Particularly their long balls that they tend to play up to the forwards are difficult to defend against. They have a lot of strong players, that can hold the ball up well and are good in the air. They are somewhat similar to Darmstadt, but of course on a different level. It’s not easy playing against these kinds of teams.
Question: What is your opinion of the Javi Martinez foul - was he lucky not to see red?
Neuer: It was crucial that Philipp Lahm covered back and was in line at the point at which the tackle was made. It was a very important run back.
Question: How important is it that in Martinez you have one fit, recognised centre half in the team?
Neuer: He is always improving, and returning to his top level. He was out of action for a long period following his operation and we are pleased to have such a good fighter in our ranks.
Question: Due to the injuries this season to Jérôme Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Medhi Benatia and Javi Martinez, you’ve never really had the first-choice back four in front of you.
Neuer: I’m always pleased when everyone is fit because it means the coach can choose his first-choice four to start. We have compensated very well for the many injuries however, and everything is going well at the moment. We have had an excellent season up until now, but I’m looking forward to having Jérôme back.
Question: What was the atmosphere like in Benfica’s stadium?
Neuer: The spectators helped their team a lot. I have played here with Schalke before, and we won 2-1. It’s similar to the atmosphere at Juventus, when we went there in 2013 under Jupp Heynckes. With that said, I didn’t have a decibel meter with me (laughs).
Question: Bayern didn’t seem to panic even when they went a goal behind in the match.
Neuer: We knew it was all in our own hands. We know that we are always capable of getting a goal, we did so in the first leg and we got two today - deservedly. We also had one or two other good chances, particularly in the second half.
Question: How important is Arturo Vidal to Bayern at the moment?
Neuer: He was rested by Pep Guardiola against Stuttgart, after being taken off very early. Arturo is a hugely important player for us in these high-level matches - he throws himself into every challenge, plays without fear and gets the team moving. He also contributes with goals here and there.
Question: You now find yourselves in yet another Champions League semi-final, but haven’t won the trophy since 2013.
Neuer: We know that we have to fight for everything, and that it won’t be put on a plate for us. We have a huge amount of motivation in every match, and want to win all our games. Dortmund were always at a slight disadvantage playing in the Europa League as they had to match our result in the Bundesliga on the Sunday. They have had a lot of pressure on them, and have performed very well.
Question: Is there still room to improve at Bayern?
Neuer: We put in an excellent performance against Dortmund. There have always been things we can improve on in every game, but I’ve never got the impression that we’ve been the worst team on the pitch.
Question: FC Barcelona, one of the favourites, are now out. How important is that?
Neuer: Barca are of course one of the best teams in the world, and were one of the main favourites. We heard they had nearly 75% of the ball in Madrid, but still conceded two goals. That’s shows that regardless of how secure you feel on the pitch, you can always concede goals. We have experienced that ourselves.
Question: Who do you want in the next round? Real Madrid, Atlético or Manchester City?
Neuer: We are pleased that we are in the semi-final, and are determined to go all the way. We will stay calm and look forward to seeing who we are drawn against. I have no favoured opponent - either Madrid or Manchester (laughs).