Make-or-break? Ko­vac in fir­ing line as Bay­ern tackle Dort­mund

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Dort­mund: Bay­ern Mu­nich are em­brac­ing the role of un­der­dogs for to­day’s Bun­desliga show­down at lead­ers Borus­sia Dort­mund with cap­tain Manuel Neuer ad­mit­ting all is not well with the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons. Bay­ern have won 10 of their last 19 games against Dort­mund, in­clud­ing a 6-0 thrash­ing of the cur­rent league lead­ers last March when Robert Le­wandowski scored a hat-trick against his for­mer club in Mu­nich.

Six months later, third-placed Bay­ern trail Dort­mund by four points in the ta­ble and strug­gling for form un­der coach Niko Ko­vac. In the wake of a 2-0 de­feat at Hertha Ber­lin and a 3-0 upset at home to Moenchenglad­bach — with Bay­ern out-played in both league games — the Bavar­ian gi­ants have laboured to beat even lim­ited teams in re­cent weeks. “We are not the ‘Su­per-Bay­ern’ that ev­ery­one knows and aren’t set­ting off fire­works with our per­for­mances,” ad­mit­ted Neuer af­ter Wed­nes­day’s laboured 2-0 win over AEK on Wed­nes­day in the Cham­pi­ons League.

Even Bay­ern pres­i­dent Uli Hoe­ness sees the Bavar­i­ans as “un­der­dogs” at Dort­mund, a no­tion the hosts re­ject.

“We’ve heard what has been said, but we don’t care — we are just en­joy­ing the sit­u­a­tion,” said Dort­mund’s di­rec­tor of sport Michael Zorc on Thurs­day.

“It doesn’t make much sense to com­pare (Dort­mund with Bay­ern) — they have won the last six Bun­desliga ti­tles.”

On pa­per, there is lit­tle cause for con­cern from Bay­ern’s per­spec­tive.

They trail Dort­mund by only four points and on the verge of the Cham­pi­ons League knock-out stages, top­ping their group with 10 points.

Yet frus­trat­ing re­cent per­for­mances tell a dif­fer­ent story with ru­mours of un­rest in the dress­ing room. Se­nior play­ers Thomas Mueller, Mats Hum­mels, Ar­jen Robben and Franck Ribery are re­port­edly not be­hind Ko­vac

— a toxic sit­u­a­tion for any head coach at Bay­ern. Ex-Bay­ern and Ger­many leg­end Lothar Matthaeus be­lieves to­day’s match can make — or break — Ko­vac’s ten­ure. “A vic­tory there and all Bay­ern fans would con­jure up a smile again,” said Matthaeus, 57, who sees a “great chance” for Bay­ern to “re­assert them­selves and si­lence a few crit­i­cal voices”. How­ever, de­feat would leave Bay­ern seven points be­hind Dort­mund — a near-un­think­able sit­u­a­tion for Hoe­ness — with Matthaeus warn­ing Ko­vac is ef­fec­tively “not al­lowed to lose with his team in Dort­mund”.

Thomas Mueller ex­pects an elec­tric at­mos­phere at Dort­mund in front of an 81,000 sell-out crowd. “We will have to torture our­selves a bit,” said the Ger­many mid­fielder.

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