Niko Kovac sets Bayern bar high ahead of Der Klassiker
The Bundesliga title race could go right to the wire.
Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac insists his side are desperate to replace Borussia Dortmund at the summit of the Bundesliga in Saturday’s seismic 100th league instalment of ‘Der Klassiker’.
Two points separate first and second in the table heading into a showdown at the Allianz Arena that is shaping up to be a potential title decider.
Dortmund have seen a nine-point lead established in December disintegrate but Bayern have also suffered their own dip recently.
Both clubs were knocked out of the Champions League by English opposition, leaving them to concentrate on a thrilling domestic title race.
“Second place is the first loser. We want to win,” said Kovac.
“The game on Saturday is very, very important. We all know what’s at stake and what will be demanded of us both defensively and going forward.
“It will be an interesting game between two evenly-matched teams. The players, the fans and the club will give everything to win this.”
David Alaba, Manuel Neuer, James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski are expected to recover from knocks in time to play, but Alphonso Davies and Arjen Robben will definitely miss out.
Bayern shipped four goals against second-division Heidenheim on domestic cup duty on Wednesday and Kovac insists that denying the opposition is a team effort.
“It’s about responsibility and discipline,” he said. “I do not just start with the defenders, it starts earlier. You have to be ready, no matter what your level.
“France have become world champions because they played well but also defended well.
“It is not for nothing that titles are decided at the back. We have to come back to defending well, as individuals and as a team.
“That’s what we have to go back to, but you have to want it even if you’re an artist. It will be an interesting game. The team that makes fewer mistakes will win.”
Dortmund boss Lucien Favre refused to overstate the importance of a fixture that has been billed as the biggest domestic club match in Europe this season.
“This game is very special – Bayern v Dortmund,” he said. “The table is close, seven games remain, and two great teams.
“If we win, nothing is decided, if we draw, nothing is decided, if we lose nothing is decided. It’s completely open!”
Dortmund have injury concerns over Paco Alcacer, Lukasz Piszczek and Abdou Diallo.