BERLIN (Reuters) – Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac is feeling the heat as the German champions prepare to travel to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday and his praise of his former club’s fans has fanned the flames even more.
Kovac’s future at the club has been in doubt in recent weeks with Bayern, leaking goals and relying almost exclusively on the scoring prowess of Robert Lewandowski, far from dominant in the current campaign and sitting only second in the Bundesliga.
Their late 2-1 win over second-tier VfL Bochum in the German Cup on Tuesday did little to improve Kovac’s standing as media speculation about a possible successor continues to churn.
And his praise of Frankfurt fans has turned even more Bayern supporters against him.
“It will be a hot game in Frankfurt,” Kovac said after their lacklustre win in Bochum.
“I know what it is like in Frankfurt. There you have the best fans in the league, this has to be said. They have proved that in the past few years.”
Kovac coached Frankfurt from 2016-18 and won the German Cup win them in 2018 before joining the Bavarians.
Bayern fans vented their anger on social media and many called for his departure over the comments.
It is not the first time in recent weeks that the 48-year-old Croat has raised eyebrows.
He called World Cup winner Thomas Mueller “an emergency option” two weeks ago. This week, when asked about Liverpool’s impressive pressing ability, Kovac said: “You cannot drive on the motorway at 200kph when your car can only reach 100. You have to adapt to what you have.”
Despite the unease in the dugout, a win at Frankfurt could move them back to the top of the table as they seek an eighth straight league crown.
“Frankfurt are a team that will step on the gas from the start. So we have to act accordingly. Not react but act,” Kovac said.
Any result other than victory will likely see them drop further behind in what is the tightest title race in years, and would pile even more pressure on embattled Kovac.
Leaders Borussia Moenchengladbach, on 19 points, will be keen to return to league action against Bayer Leverkusen after suffering a 2-1 German Cup loss to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.
Dortmund, three points behind in fifth place, entertain unbeaten VfL Wolfsburg, a point ahead in fourth, while Freiburg in third on 17, take on Werder Bremen.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann)