‘We pulled wagon from the muck’: Bayern on brink of seventh successive title
“Of course I hope we win the title on Saturday, but we have seen what can happen in football,” said Kovac, with a nod to the unlikely midweek Champions League semi-final recoveries of the two English sides.
Despite his caution, Kovac said he was proud of the way his team had fought back after finding themselves nine points behind Borussia Dortmund back in December.
Now they lead by four points with just two games left, starting with RB Leipzig on Saturday.
“The team really had to pull the wagon out of the muck, and they have managed to do that, but now we need to get through the last two games,” added the coach.
On Saturday, Bayern will be without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for the first of two season-defining May clashes with Leipzig.
Neuer, who has been out since mid-April with a calf strain, had hoped to return to the Bayern goal in time for the penultimate league game of the season, but Kovac confirmed on Thursday that he was yet to make a full recovery.
“Manuel won’t come to Leipzig. We hope that he can train next week and be in the squad for the last two games,” said Kovac, whose team face Eintracht Frankfurt on the last day before another meeting with Leipzig in the German Cup final on May 25.
Kovac said that his team are focusing on the chance to win the league on Saturday, rather than viewing the game as a dress rehearsal for the cup final.
“We have to differentiate, they are two games against the same opponent but in a very different context.”
Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick, meanwhile, said that he didn’t care about the title race and that Saturday’s game was a dry run for the cup.
“We know that a successful result on Saturday could have a psychological effect ahead of the cup final,” he said on Thursday.
Dortmund title hopes fade
If Bayern do win, then runners-up Dortmund will be left to rue missed opportunities in a rollercoaster season.
Having held such a commanding lead earlier this year, Dortmund now need to get a better result than Bayern in their parallel game at home to Fortuna Duesseldorf on Saturday if they are to stay in the title race.
Defeat to Schalke and a draw at Werder Bremen in the last two weeks have left Dortmund’s hopes hanging by a thread, but sporting director Michael Zorc defended his team.
“We need to look at the big picture. We could still get 76 points, which would be the third biggest tally in our history and an amazing achievement,” he said.
“Sometimes the perception is a bit too negative and doesn’t always correspond with the reality.”
Coach Lucien Favre said his team would not let themselves be distracted by updates from the Bayern game on Saturday.
“We have to concentrate on our match, we can’t afford to forget the game we are playing,” he said.
Dortmund may be without English starlet Jadon Sancho against Duesseldorf, after the 19-year-old was unable to train with the team this week.
Further down the table, five teams are still in the running for Champions League qualification with only three points separating Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth from seventh-place Hoffenheim.
The two bottom clubs Hanover and Nuremberg are also expected to be finally relegated this weekend as they host Freiburg and Moenchengladbach respectively, with both needing Stuttgart to lose at home to Wolfsburg to have any chance of survival.
Saturday (times GMT)
Hoffenheim v Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund v Fortuna Duesseldorf, Bayer Leverkusen v Schalke, RB Leipzig v Bayern Munich, Stuttgart v Wolfsburg, Augsburg v Hertha, Hanover v Freiburg, Nuremberg v Borussia Moenchengladbach (1330)
Eintracht Frankfurt v Mainz (1600)
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