Under-pressure Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac desperately needs a win at Wolfsburg on Saturday to break the Bavarian giants’ miserable run and reignite their Bundesliga title defence.
Kovac, 47, only took charge in July, but must turn things around at mid-table Wolfsburg with the German champions winless in their last four matches, including back-to-back league defeats.
After dominating the Bundesliga for the last six seasons, Bayern are sixth in the table and four points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund – an unacceptable situation for senior bosses.
A humbling 2-0 defeat away to Hertha Berlin was bad enough before Bayern crashed to an embarrassing 3-0 drubbing at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach a fortnight ago.
Gladbach midfielder Christoph Kramer rubbed salt in Bayern’s wounds by saying their superstars were dispirited – “this is not the dominant Bayern team we all know”.
A third straight defeat would test the patience of Bayern president Uli Hoeness, who has promised to “defend Kovac until the death”.
“It’s about time that we get the feeling of a win back again,” admitted defender Mats Hummels.
Former Bayern midfielder Markus Babbel says pressure on Kovac will come from within at Munich.
‘No support, no chance’
“Players can go to Hoeness or (Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz) Rummenigge. Then you as a coach you have no chance, because they’re crying here and there,” Babbel told Omnisport.
“This is the biggest problem. You have two big men in the office. If they don’t support you, you have no chance.”
Germany’s best-selling daily Bild claim Bayern’s stars are on the verge of revolt because of Kovac’s insistence they cycle to cool down after games.
With the vast majority of his squad on international duty, the head coach has had little time to make changes.
Colombian attacking midfielder James Rodriguez only returned to Munich on Thursday while Jerome Boateng and Leon Goeretzka both have light leg injuries.
“I believe that it’s a good time to host Bayern Munich,” said Wolfsburg’s sports director Marcel Schaefer.
Wolfsburg have concerns in defence with left-back Jerome Roussillon struggling with a calf injury, while centre-backs John Anthony Brooks, of the USA and Congolese Marcel Tisserand are just back from international duty.
Winger Arjen Robben refuses to hear any talk of crisis at Bayern.
“If you make the last few games bigger than they are, then you talk yourself into a crisis, I am firmly convinced that this is only about a few small details,” said the Dutchman.
Despite Robben’s reassurances, Kovac has several problems to fix.
Both Polish striker Robert Lewandowski and Germany forward Thomas Mueller are struggling for goals after both drew blanks in their last five games for club and country.
Bayern’s defence failed to cope after Hertha and Gladbach counter-attacked through Munich’s midfield.
Alcacer on fire
Should Bayern fail to win in Wolfsburg, Dortmund have a great chance to extend their lead at bottom side Stuttgart.
Dortmund striker Paco Alcacer is in rich form with nine goals in his last five games.
After hitting six goals in three Dortmund games – including a hat-trick and a last-gasp winner in the stunning 4-3 victory over Augsburg – Alcacer, on loan from Barcelona, scored three more goals on his return to the Spain team after a two-year break.
Lucien Favre says Alcacer could make his first Bundesliga start, after three appearances off the bench, but the Dortmund coach has problems in defence.
“We have a luxury problem in the midfield, but not in the defence,” admitted Favre.
Swiss centre-back Manuel Akanji, who has not missed a minute for Dortmund this season, returned from international duty with a hip injury, which is expected to sideline him for three weeks.
Left-back Marcel Schmelzer also misses the trip to Stuttgart with a knee injury.