“Football writes the most beautiful stories,” said one of the protagonists of this Sunday’s Supercup, and for new Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac, a meeting against his former side Eintracht Frankfurt represents a tale worth telling in numbers.
Standing at 53 inches high, the attractive trophy on offer at the Commerzbank Arena this weekend incorporates elements of the Meisterschale – that famous shield awarded to the Bundesliga champions – and the DFB Cup. It is representative of intertwined fortunes of a season gone by and great hopes of what could lie ahead.
Watch: Get ready for the Supercup!
Bayern, remember, blazed toward a record 28th German top-flight title in 2017/18, before the Bavarian pacesetters were denied a league and cup double by Eintracht. On May 19, the Eagles downed their rivals in a dramatic DFB Cup denouement in Berlin to emerge with that particular piece of silverware for the first time in 30 years.
“I am delighted for the title, but I’m also sad that I’m going, even if I know where I’m off to,” coach Kovac said after his former team’s 3-1 win in the capital’s Olympiastadion. Having since switched allegiances, the 46-year-old will be keen to keep Bayern ahead of the Supercup pack by bringing the trophy back to Bavaria for a seventh time. For the record, Borussia Dortmund are currently second on the list of previous winners with five Supercup titles.
It was the Klassiker rivals who faced off in last year’s showpiece and produced a dramatic 2-2 draw, before Bayern triumphed on penalties, the fifth time a Supercup had gone to a shootout. On target for the winners that day both in the game, and during the spot-kick duel, was Robert Lewandowski, the pulsating Polish marksman who, along with teammate Thomas Müller, has featured most times in the Supercup with seven appearances.
A long way short of those sort of numbers is Eintracht striker Sebastian Haller, eager to feature in his first such game. The 24-year-old – who netted four goals and laid on three assists during Die Adler’s successful Cup run last term – recently spoke of the special atmosphere within the Frankfurt group as they go in search of a second trophy in the same calendar year.
Watch: Sebastian Haller's 2017 Bundesliga Goal of the Year!
“We’ve become a lot closer after everything we achieved last season,” the former France Under-21 international said. “We laugh a lot in training but we work hard too. Most of the players always have a smile on their faces. That’s important, it’s a good sign.”
Taking charge of a German club for the first time, Eintracht coach Adi Hütter is keeping those famous Kovac vibes alive ahead of Sunday’s Commerzbank Arena showdown. “What really impresses me is how [Hütter] connects with his players: he does everything with so much enthusiasm and it’s fun to watch,” Frankfurt sporting director Bruno Hübner explained.
A packed stadium this weekend will bring overall Supercup attendances to an incredible half a million spectators and the 50,000 who take their places at the Commerzbank Arena on Sunday look set to be spoiled by some scintillating football.
Bayern new boys Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry could provide some of that spark while one of the team’s long-standing favourites, Joshua Kimmich, is hoping the hard work put in under Kovac so far will help the visitors’ impress their travelling fans.
“We’re training for longer and there’s more focus on basic endurance,” the full-back, who is on 123 appearances for his club, explained. “I hope and believe that will do us good during the season.”
For Eintracht and new signings like Felix Wiedwald, Goncalo Paciencia, Nicolai Müller and Chico Geraldes, the challenge will be to emerge with a performance akin that of the DFB Cup final. Before that game, Sunday’s hosts had failed to beat Bayern in 14 previous matches and had scored just three times in 12 prior meetings, highlighting the magnitude of May’s achievement.
“Bayern are always favourites, but we came out on top tonight,” Eintracht’s double goalscoring hero, Ante Rebic, said after last May’s encounter. With the eyes of the world watching on Sunday, who will, “write the most beautiful story,” this time around?