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"Summon all our strength" one more time

Bayern set for final game of 2018

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Bayern have to “summon all our strength” for one final time on Saturday evening, as Niko Kovac declared on Friday. He was referring to the last match of 2018 at Eintracht Frankfurt (kick-off 18:30 CET, coverage available vie our live ticker), which is a fixture that has developed a number of subplots stretching back to the 3-1 DFB Cup final defeat and the 5-0 Supercup thrashing in August.

The Supercup doesn’t matter

Matchday 17 in the Bundesliga starts with leaders Borussia Dortmund (39 points) hosting second-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach (33) on Friday evening. At least one of the two rivals will therefore drop points, and this is where Bayern (third on 33 points) hope to pounce and cut their deficit to the top. “A blow to the other two means we can quickly make up points,” Kovac stated bluntly. “We have to put in a top performance to remain at least six points behind going into the winter break. Maybe it’ll be even less.”

The 47-year-old, however, knows better than most how tough the job will be in Frankfurt. Kovac coached Eintracht for over two years until last summer and warned that they are “a team with a lot of pace, who defend aggressively from the front and lie in wait for mistakes. We have to be alert”. The 5-0 win over his former club at the start of the season is now in the past because Eintracht have progressed and now boast three players with enormous goalscoring potential: Luka Jovic (12 Bundesliga goals), Sebastien Haller (9) and Ante Rebic (5). “The three are really good up front,” according to Kovac.

Coman ready to be involved

As the league’s best team on the road this season with 18 points from eight games, the record champions can travel to Germany’s financial capital full of confidence. However, within the team there is great respect for Eintracht. “They’ve had a really good season so far. It’ll be tough,” admitted captain Manuel Neuer. Joshua Kimmich also spoke of a “difficult away game in Frankfurt” and a “tough nut to crack” in the final match of the first half of the season.

The round of midweek Bundesliga fixtures has left its mark on the FCB squad. Besides long-term absentees Arjen Robben (thigh), James Rodriguez (knee) and World Cup winner Corentin Tolisso (knee), the German champions are also without Serge Gnabry (calf) and the suspended Renato Sanches after Wednesday’s hard-fought win over RB Leipzig. “We’ve lost a bit of pace in the team,” Kimmich admitted. It makes it all the more important then that Kingsley Coman, who had to go off on Wednesday after suffering a knock, should be fit in time according to Kovac.

Battle cry from Frankfurt

And then of course there is the opposition. “We’re going for three points against Bayern,” declared a confident Eintracht sporting director Fredi Bobic, who also added that he wants Frankfurt’s stadium to become a “fortress”. Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp also believes his side have a chance: “We’ve shown in recent months what we can do at home,” the Germany international said. “It’s a great way to see out the year for us and the fans. We’re all pumped for it!”

Frankfurt, who currently sit fifth in the table, have somewhat less to worry about in terms of personnel. “I’m assuming we can muster an almost full-strength team,” Eintracht head coach Adi Hütter declared at his Friday press conference. Besides injured captain David Abraham, the hosts are only without veteran Makoto Hasebe because of a muscle problem.

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