BERLIN (Reuters) – Niko Kovac’s future at Bayern Munich largely depends on the club retaining the Bundesliga title on Saturday and avoiding a season finale slip-up that could allow Borussia Dortmund to end their long reign as champions.
The Croat coach, in his first season in Munich, can still win the domestic league and Cup double but the tightest Bundesliga race in years has already raised the alarm at Bayern, winners of the last six consecutive league titles.
The Bavarians are on 75 points and host Eintracht Frankfurt, who are battling for a Champions League spot, while Dortmund, on 73, travel to Borussia Moenchengladbach, also a Champions League contender.
Victory for Bayern or matching Dortmund’s result would secure them the title and possibly Kovac his job.
“I constantly hear the word job guarantee. I am not a fan of job guarantees and I do not want to just praise the coach and the players,” said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“At the end of the day players, management and of course the coach at Bayern must deliver. I am convinced that Niko will win the title and then we will celebrate together.”
Kovac’s team, however, already wasted one match point last week after a 0-0 draw at RB Leipzig that allowed Dortmund to close to within two points going into the final matchday.
Any result other than a win at home on the season finale could prove decisive for the coach, whose contract runs to 2021.
“His contract duration is known but we must always make sure that there is success and the team remains under tension,” Rummenigge said.
“We have to make sure that success is continuous as it has been in the past 20 or 30 years.”
Kovac has had anything but an easy year at Bayern despite keeping the club on course for two titles and he faced the sack in November when the team slipped nine points behind Dortmund.
A strong run of form after the winter break saw them recover and reclaim the lead, however.
Eintracht, the club Kovac led to a German Cup triumph last year, are in desperate need of the three points, lying in sixth place on 54 points, one behind Bayer Leverkusen and Gladbach.
The top four clubs advance to the Champions League group stage.
Dortmund have an equally tough task against Gladbach, who also want to finish in the top four and return to Europe for the first time in three years.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Nick Mulvenney)