BERLIN (AFP) – When new Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovac makes his return to the Allianz Arena to take on Bayern tomorrow, he is unlikely to receive the warm welcome former double winners would usually be afforded.
Kovac coached Bayern to a Bundesliga and German Cup double in 2018-19, but was forced out of the club midway through 2019-20 with his side fourth after a 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.
He was replaced by former mentor and current Germany manager Hansi Flick who guided Bayern to an eighth straight Bundesliga title as well as the 2020 Champions League.
Now coached by Julian Nagelsmann, Bayern romped to a 6-1 opening day win over Frankfurt and again look among the best teams in Europe.
Wolfsburg opened their season with a 2-2 home draw against promoted Werder Bremen.
Kovac’s road back to the Allianz has been rockier, although he has at times demonstrated the quality that attracted Bayern in the first place.
In an 18-month spell in Ligue 1, he took Monaco from relegation candidates to a chance at winning the title on the final matchday of the 2020-21 season, beating Paris Saint-German twice along the way.
Although he was sacked early in the following season after a disappointing exit from the Champions League qualifying rounds, every member of Monaco’s young side improved under Kovac, something Wolves fans will hope he emulates in Lower Saxony.
Kovac said on Thursday his side “will have our chances (against Bayern), although there certainly won’t be too many”.
He encouraged his team to keep focussed even if they fall behind against the 31-time German champions.
“If you fall apart against Bayern, it will be hefty. But we have ideas to withstand the Bayern pressing” he told Germany’s SID.
With 11 goals in two competitive games since Robert Lewandowski’s departure Bayern are far from enduring a goal drought.
Speaking about his side’s potency without the Polish striker so far in 2022-23, Nagelsmann told Bild “it’s been interesting for us to see how we can do it without Lewandowski.”
“The successes with Lewandowski are in the past, this team is the future.”