Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac and his Borussia Dortmund counterpart Lucien Favre both face a trip down memory lane on Saturday as the Bundesliga braces itself for the most nail-biting season finale in years.
Both Kovac and Favre will face their former clubs on a much-anticipated final day, as the title race goes down to the last weekend of the season for the first time since 2010.
Bayern currently sit two points ahead of Dortmund, and can claim a seventh straight league crown if they avoid defeat at home by Kovac’s old club Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
Dortmund, meanwhile, travel to Favre’s old hunting ground at Borussia Moenchengladbach, knowing that they can only be crowned champions if they win and Bayern lose.
“We need to focus on our game,” said Favre on Thursday, adding that Dortmund needed to be prepared for all eventualities against Gladbach, whom he coached between 2011 and 2015.
“They play well on the counter-attack, but they can also press high up the pitch, and they need to win too,” he said.
There is more than the title at stake on Saturday, with both Gladbach and Frankfurt still in the running for Champions League qualification.
Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc joked on Thursday that he would not send Frankfurt a crate of beer if they beat Bayern.
“They have something to play for, so they don’t need any extra motivation,” he said.
Zorc admitted that Bayern were in “pole position”, but confirmed that the club were making plans for a potential title celebration in the Dortmund town centre.
“We are hugely looking forward to the game, and the excitement will rise when we are on the way to the stadium, those are nice moments,” he said.
‘We must win trophies’
Bayern coach Kovac said on Thursday that he was proud to be on the verge of the title, having trailed Dortmund by nine points in December.
“In winter, we just hoped we would have any chance at all on the final day, and now we are in the comfortable situation of having it in our own hands,” he said.
The Croatian said he was expecting an emotional afternoon on Saturday, when his old club Frankfurt come to Munich.
Bayern have not won the title in front of their own fans since 2000, and are preparing to bid farewell to club icons Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
“There hasn’t been a situation like this in Munich for a while, and we want to bring the fans with us on Saturday,” he said.
Kovac, who steered Frankfurt away from relegation in 2016 before leading them to glory in the German Cup last season, said that the pressure to win the title was nothing compared to a relegation fight.
“When you are fighting for your existence, that is something different,” he said.
Yet the under-fire coach knows that Saturday’s meeting with his Frankfurt past could yet define his Bayern future.
Rumours that Kovac is on the verge of the sack have increased in the build-up to the Frankfurt game, but the Croatian was philosophical on Thursday.
“I like the job but I am also independent. I have always been a fighter and have never given up,” he said.
With Saturday’s title decider and next weekend’s German Cup final against RB Leipzig, Kovac has two chances to win silverware in the next week, and is determined to take both of them.
“We must win trophies,” he said.
Fixtures: Bayern Munich vs Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke vs Stuttgart, Borussia Moenchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund, Hertha Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen vs RB Leipzig, Freiburg vs Nuremberg, Mainz vs Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg vs Augsburg, Fortuna Duesseldorf vs Hanover