Bayern faces future coach in German Cup final
SATURDAY’S German Cup final between Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt will be a tale of two coaches - Bayern’s outgoing coach Jupp Heynckes and his replacement Frankfurt’s Niko Kovac. Heynckes would like to bow out at Bayern Munich with another league and cup double while his replacement Niko Kovac also wants to leave Eintracht Frankfurt on a high in the final. Any talk of split loyalties for Kovac has been quashed by both sides, with a school of thought saying the Croatian is even more desperate to win because if Bayern clinches the double he will have extra pressure to at least repeat the feat next season. Frankfurt was annoyed with Bayern for approaching Kovac just as it was entering the end-spurt of the season. Results in the Bundesliga fell away, meaning it finished eighth and must now win the Cup to get into the Europa League. If Frankfurt loses, VfB Stuttgart will head to Europe having ended a roller-coaster season in seventh. Frankfurt missed out on seventh after a 1-0 loss to Schalke on Saturday in the final Bundesliga game of the season. “We have to tick off the game and forget it,” Kovac said. “I hope we will have more look on Saturday in the final.”
While Kovac will take center stage for some at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, the day will belong to retiring Bayern coach Heynckes. The 73-year-old thought he had retired before, after leading Bayern to a treble in 2013, but came back as an emergency stop-gap in September following the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti. Champions League glory has escaped him this time but finish- ing off with a Cup triumph having strolled to the Bundesliga title would still be a fitting end for one of the gentlemen of the game.
Its Bundesliga title party last Saturday was slightly soured by a 4-1 home defeat by Stuttgart but Heynckes was unruffled. “In Berlin, you will see a different Bayern,” he said. His players will do everything to give him a proper send-off. “I think if we win the Cup final, the coach will be happy. Jupp is a great, where the word legend is appropriate,” said defender Mats Hummels, who is a slight doubt with a foot injury. A bigger doubt is the presence of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, out since September with a broken foot but now back in full training. He is desperate to prove his fitness to keep his Germany World Cup place but media reports suggest Sven Ulreich will remain in goal against Frankfurt, with Neuer hoping two World Cup warm-up games will be enough to convince Joachim Löw. One Bayern big name that will definitely be missing is center back Jerome Boateng, who is nursing a thigh injury which should not impact his World Cup hopes but will rule him out of a meeting with Frankfurt and his brother Kevin-Prince. “For the Boateng family, it is obviously very sad. We are both disappointed,” said Kevin-Prince, who is at least looking forward to playing in his home city of Berlin. “It is something special and it will be very emotional. I always wanted to play this game and not watch it on television,” said the defender. His brother though will hope his side does better than last season when they lost the Cup final 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund.