Niko Kovac hopes to deny Bayern in cup final before joining
It will be Jupp Heynckes’ last game – for the second time – before retirement, and Kovac is poised to replace him at Bayern next season.
”We want to win the final. What happens afterward isn’t important,” Kovac said on Friday.
Appearing beside him at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, Heynckes appeared in good form ahead of another last game, saying he had already ended his career with the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles in 2013. The 73-year-old Heynckes acknowledged the final will be nevertheless emotional, ”a highlight in my biography.”
Heynckes was coaxed out of retirement for his fourth stint in charge after Bayern’s faltering start to the season under Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian was fired on Sept. 28 with Bayern already five points behind then-Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund.
Under Heynckes, Bayern wrapped up the title with five rounds to spare and is poised to complete a domestic double.
Thomas Mueller, who has overcome a stomach bug, was missing from the news conference and Heynckes joked he sent him back to the hotel ”so that we can move a bit faster here. You know how he likes to talk.”
In a boost for Germany’s World Cup hopes, Bayern’s Manuel Neuer is back for the first time since September, when the goalkeeper suffered a hairline fracture in his left foot while training.
”He’ll be in the squad but he won’t play from the start,” said Heynckes, who predicted Neuer will be fit for the World Cup.
”Manuel has a presence and is an authority that hardly anyone can rival in goal. He’ll get back to competition-mode relatively quickly.”
Frankfurt can call upon all of its key players.
But Kovac acknowledged his side still faces a tough challenge to upset Bayern ”if both teams play to their maximum.”
The contrast could hardly be greater. Bayern is bidding for its 19th title from its 22nd German Cup final. Frankfurt won the last of its four titles 30 years ago.
”It would be an explosion of emotions for Frankfurt and our fans,” Kovac said.
His side lost the final to Borussia Dortmund last year. Frankfurt previously lost to Bayern in 2006.
”The final is a nice farewell present,” said Kovac who saved Frankfurt from relegation when he took over in March 2016 and enjoyed two successful seasons. ”I’ve had a great time, so it’s a little bittersweet.”
Frankfurt can secure a place in the Europa League with a win. Stuttgart, which finished seventh in the Bundesliga, will qualify if not as Bayern is already through to the Champions League.
The 75th German Cup final is due to be broadcast in 175 countries.