Bayern Munich injuries starting to ease ahead of pivotal month | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 05.02.2019
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Bayern Munich injuries starting to ease ahead of pivotal month

With progress in both German Cup and Champions League on the line and a deficit in the Bundesliga, the next month looks key to Bayern Munich's season. Niko Kovac thinks some of his star men should return just in time.

Bayern Munich's autumn of discontent began after a win over Schalke in late September, with losses to Hertha Berlin, Borussia Mönchengladbach and home draws against Augsburg and Ajax leading to much naval-gazing and speculation over Niko Kovac's future.

On Wednesday, the German champions travel to Berlin again, this time in the German Cup, ahead of a 25-day period that also features the reverse of those Bundesliga fixtures and a trip to face Liverpool in the Champions League.

While a similar set of results would do Kovac's stock no favors, an acceptance among the Bayern hierarchy that structural change is required to overhaul a somewhat stale squad is likely to mean the spotlight is a little less intense on the Croatian coach this time around.

Big names on the road to recovery

But a repeat of those results would still be close to unthinkable, particularly domestically. With Borussia Dortmund showing unexpected consistency to hold a six point league in the Bundesliga, and Liverpool favorites in the Champions League tie despite recent wobbles, the German Cup perhaps takes on a greater significance than usual for the Bavarians. 

Vedad Ibisevic scores from the spot in Hertha Berlin's Bundesliga win over Bayern in September (Getty Images/AFP/O. Andersen)

Vedad Ibisevic scores from the spot in Hertha Berlin's Bundesliga win over Bayern in September

At his press conference on Tuesday, Kovac said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who missed Saturday's defeat to Leverkusen, "Feels good. He'd like to play straight away, but we need the all clear from the doctors."

Fellow veterans Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were also back on the training pitches at Sabener Strasse this week, with Spanish playmaker Thiago also close to full fitness after missing Saturday's match. Neither Robben or Ribery have played since December and Leon Goretzka, Bayern's player of the month for January admits that the side need their senior figures in a crucial period.

"They're extremely important players for us, they give us a special quality and we'll need them in the coming weeks as well," the midfielder said.

Corentin Tolisso has also begun to train individually after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in September while a minor ankle injury to Renato Sanches is the only other concern ahead of Wednesday's clash. 

With games coming thick and fast, and Thomas Müller suspended for both legs of the Liverpool tie, squad depth is likely to play a part for Bayern, particularly while they're still alive in all three competitions.

But Kovac says that, regardless of who is selected and who is fit, Bayern must show an improvement if they want to salvage something from a difficult season.

‘We have to quickly improve things that didn’t work against Leverkusen," he said. "We know the quality is there, we have to be more compact. We’ve already given away 12 points after we took the lead. I don’t know when the last time that happened at Bayern was."

If Bayern are to return to Berlin once more for the German Cup final in May, Kovac needs the end of winter to be less bleak than autumn. 

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