Pep Guardiola reckons Bayern Munich needed the challenge of a dramatic win in Stuttgart to maintain their record unbeaten league run, with the Bundesliga title race effectively over.
The Bavarians went 13 points clear on Wednesday with a dramatic 2-1 victory, as Thiago Alcantara's acrobatic 93rd-minute volley saw off a spirited Stuttgart challenge and extended Bayern's record unbeaten league run out to 43 matches. Bayern last lost in the Bundesliga back in October 2012, and this season's title race is widely considered to be over with more than three months still to play.
But Bayern did not have things their own way in Stuttgart, falling behind to a Vedad Ibisevic goal after 29 minutes before Claudio Pizarro equalised 14 minutes from time. Guardiola believes his side needed a tough league match to remind them that nothing is yet decided, despite their massive lead.
"If a team doesn't lose for 43 games and everyone says that the Bundesliga is over and the championship is secured, it's not easy for the player's mentality," said the Spaniard. "To always win, win, win - I know how difficult that is."
Bayern have now won all of their last 11 league games, and having seized 14 titles in four years as Barcelona coach, Guardiola is familiar with the luxury problem of motivating a side who are used to winning. The European champions were issued with a wake-up call earlier this month when a experimental side lost 3-0 at Red Bull Salzburg in a friendly.
"Sometimes we need a warning, you need a problem like we had in Salzburg or the first-half in Stuttgart to react," he said. "A game like that is better than a 3- or 4-0 victory."
Having broken or equalled 25 Bundesliga records last season, Bayern are again setting new best marks. A 13-point lead after 18 matches is a new record and the question is whether Guardiola's side will better last season's record for the earliest confirmed title win on 6 April, which they achieved with six games to spare.
Lahm, Thiago reflect on victory
Stuttgart were just seconds from taking a deserved point from the game and their players were left pole-axed on the pitch after succumbing to their third straight defeat, their sixth loss in eight matches.
"Every opponent wants to be the first to beat us and we weren't as consistent as usual," said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm.
But match-winner Alcantara summed up the defending title-holders mentality.
"That's Bayern Munich - we tried everything we could to get the win," said the 22-year-old, who joined Bayern from Barcelona last July and scored his first Bundesliga goal in Stuttgart.