James Rodriguez (r.) is a key part of Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac's (l.) master plan to catch Borussia Dortmund. - © © imago
James Rodriguez (r.) is a key part of Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac's (l.) master plan to catch Borussia Dortmund. - © © imago

Niko Kovac on Bayern Munich's form, Borussia Dortmund, Javi Martinez, James Rodriguez, Thiago and Thomas Müller

Niko Kovac says his Bayern Munich team need to go back to old strengths if they're to overhaul Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga standings.

Bayern kicked off Kovac's tenure with four successive Bundesliga wins, before a three-game winless run - including back-to-back defeats - enabled Dortmund to take charge. The defending champions returned to winning ways against Wolfsburg last weekend, but head to Mainz on Saturday with four points to make up on Lucien Favre's BVB.

"What I see from Dortmund at the moment is very good," Kovac told media at his customary pre-match press conference on Friday. "Also the way they’re winning their points. So we have to make sure we get back to where we were quickly. We'll look at bringing someone in in the winter, but for now we'll keep working with the team we have."

Watch: Have Bayern Munich got their mojo back after Wolfsburg win?

Martinez, James and Thiago key

To that end, Kovac plans to keep faith with Javi Martinez on Bundesliga Matchday 9. The Spanish midfielder returned to the starting line-up against Wolfsburg, and was on the scoresheet in the midweek win over AEK Athens in the UEFA Champions League.

"[Javi] Martinez has shown me in recent weeks that he's on fire," Kovac explained. "As well as his footballing qualities, it helps that he speaks the same language [as James and Thiago]. Javi's doing very well. He forced the goal against Athens and will play many games this season."

Kovac also had warms words for James Rodriguez and Thiago. James scored his third goal of the season in the Wolfsburg win, while Thiago has started 11 of Bayern's 13 competitive fixtures in 2018/19.

"James has played two very good games, but he was a bit sick against Athens. We'll have to check that he's not still under the weather. Thiago's a great footballer. He always turns up and creates chances. He works hard."

'More games for Müller'

Thomas Müller could benefit, should James miss out in Mainz - although Kovac refused to be drawn on what role the Germany international might play against Mainz. Müller's last three appearances have all been as a second-half substitute.

"Müller isn't lacking anything," Kovac affirmed. "We decided after the international break to give the team a rest. Everyone's satisfied. This is just a snapshot. It doesn't mean Müller won't play more games ahead."

After Mainz, Bayern take on Rödinghausen (DFB Cup second round, 30 October), Freiburg (Bundesliga, 3 November) and AEK (Champions League, 7 November), before travelling to the Signal Iduna Park to face leaders Dortmund in Der Klassiker (10 November).

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