Bayern Munich have had a rollercoaster season, and it’s only the halfway stage in 2018/19. After a seemingly flawless start under new coach Niko Kovac, the record German champions suffered an unusual blip midway through the Hinrunde. They have now ended the first half of the season with four consecutive Bundesliga wins without conceding a goal.
In an interview with the club’s official website, Kovac has looked back on his first six months in the dugout at the Allianz Arena and believes the Munich side are back to their devastating best that saw them win their first seven competitive matches of the season.
That start was the second-best ever by a Bayern coach at the beginning of a tenure in charge and saw Robert Lewandowski & Co. blow away all comers and fit-again captain Manuel Neuer concede just two goals.
When asked what three victories in a row to close out 2018 (4-0 at Hannover, 1-0 vs. RB Leipzig and 3-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt) means for him and the team, Kovac replied ominously, “It gives me the feeling that we’re the Bayern from the start of the season again. We’ve got our fluency and confidence back, which means the lads will do everything in the second half of the season to give Borussia Dortmund a brutal fight for the title.”
The gap to league leader BVB stands at six points during the Bundesliga’s winter break. It’s more than Bayern have ever overturned to lift the title at this stage of a season, but has been done twice before by Stuttgart in 2006/07 and Wolfsburg in 2008/09.
Nevertheless, Kovac has promised fans in Munich that the champions of the last six years will let no one stand in their way in the second half of the season, adding that come May and the final game at home to his former club Frankfurt, “we want to be celebrating with our fans.”
The 47-year-old also believes that he and his players have learned from a difficult first half of the campaign. “The lads have shown again that they can deal with criticism, and when things get tight, they show nerves of steel and full focus,” Kovac said in praise of his squad.
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And it could be a tight finish to the title race where Bayern are required to demonstrate those credentials again. The former Croatia boss stated his belief that the Bundesliga is “more equal and stronger than last year, and that’s why we need to stretch ourselves.”
As a team that has reached the latter stages of the DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League in recent years, Bayern understand how stretched things can become. Kovac also has experience as a coach by leading Frankfurt to the final of the cup in both of his full seasons in charge, beating his current employers for the title last May.
Will the combined winning experience of Bayern and Kovac tell come the end of the season? As the coach declared in his usual deadpan style: “I never panic. We’ll be prepared.”