"We can and will increase pressure on BVB"
The benefits of a winter training camp in a warm country are obvious. "We've all seen the images of Germany, playing football there is very difficult at the moment," explained Niko Kovac on Saturday smiling at media representatives in Doha. While snow is causing chaos in Munich far away from the record champions' training camp, his team have great conditions in the desert emirate to prepare for a successful 2nd half. "We have everything we need," added Kovac.
However, there isn't much preparation time left for Kovac and his staff. "We ultimately only have one training week, after that it's back to the normal rhythm, when we return to the Bundesliga routine," said the 47-year-old. The team want to make the most of the six days in Doha, to make specific adjustments. "Bayern Munich have lots of possession. We need to find solutions for when we're put under pressure," analysed Kovac. However, the former Bayern player doesn't intend to carry out a complete tactical overhaul of the team's system.
From hunters to hunted
After five wins at the end of the first half of the season the coach is content that his team can carry this momentum into the second half and exert more pressure on the Bundesliga leaders. "We are the hunters at the moment," said Kovac. Therefore his team must "try as soon as possible to overhaul" the six point deficit to Dortmund in the league. Kovac hasn't gone for big words towards the Ruhrpott however: "We won't riot or make verbal attacks, but we must do our homework." His belief is: "With performances and good results we can and will increase the pressure on BVB."
At the moment the former Bayern player doesn't want to think about the upcoming highlight: the duel with Liverpool in the Champions League in March. "We can't take the second step before the first," urged Kovac: "We have enough to deal with and that's the Bundesliga."
Gnabry returns, Robben remains out
"All concentration is now on the training camp. It's about performing well again next week. If someone thinks he's definitely in the team he could be mistaken," said Kovac, fuelling the internal competition. This is especially true given the good news on the injury front: James has returned to full training after his lateral cruciate ligament tear in November and Mats Hummels was able to take on the full training workload after a day's rest for a back problem.
In addition, Serge Gnabry is back on the road to recovery and according to Kovac "pain-free." He should be back in training in the afternoon session on Saturday. With Arjen Robben one must "take things day by day. He doesn't feel 100%. As long as this continues, he won't be in the team," announced the trainer.