Niko Kovac

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Will winning double be enough to keep Kovac at Bayern?

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BERLIN (AP) Niko Kovac is the first to win a domestic double in Germany as a player and coach, yet it may not be enough to keep his job as Bayern Munich coach.

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Kovac, whose side defeated Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday, a week after clinching the Bundesliga title, is yet to be given assurances in public from the club that he will remain in charge, despite bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

The pressure and uncertainty appeared to cast a shadow on what was Kovac’s second successive German Cup win — he was Eintracht Frankfurt coach when the side defeated Bayern in the final last year.

“Last year I was leaving the team. This year everything is a little less emotional, no tears, but still, I’m happy,” Kovac said.

“Sometimes I would really wish that things went a little differently. It’s difficult to turn the wheel back. We should all work on it, we’re all human. We should make sure that we get along with each other.”

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Kovac, who won the double as a player in 2003, acknowledged the cup win on Saturday was “very important” as “it shows that we have worked well.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was again coy when pressed on the coach’s future.

“At the end of the day, we have to get titles. Of course the coach plays a central role,” Rummenigge said. “It was never an issue for us with the term that he has until 2021, that he would simply not be there anymore as coach beforehand.”

Despite title chances, Kovac’s future uncertain at Bayern

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BERLIN (AP) Despite leading Bayern Munich to the verge of two titles, Niko Kovac’s future as coach remains up in the air.

Bayern can clinch the Bundesliga title at home against Eintracht Frankfurt – Kovac’s former team – on Saturday, one week before the team’s German Cup final against Leipzig in Berlin.

But with persistent doubts over his authority and experience dogging his first season in charge, even a domestic double might not be enough. Bayern’s management has been less than convincing in its support for the 47-year-old Croat after a season in which the team hasn’t displayed the authority of before.

“We’ll see,” Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said earlier this month to repeated questions about Kovac’s future, adding that the club had bigger priorities for now. “At this time when we can achieve a lot and win two titles, we’d be well advised not to waste our energy on questions of personnel.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz-Rummenigge was also less than forthcoming in defending Kovac, saying he had “no problem with him” and warning, “at Bayern Munich, players, management and coaches have to deliver.”

Kovac has struggled for authority since Bayern went four games without a win in late September-early October. The club lashed out at the media on Oct. 19 for “derogatory, slanderous reporting” of its bad run, and felt compelled to address an Instagram post criticizing Kovac from Lisa Mueller, forward Thomas Mueller’s wife, for only using her husband as a substitute.

Kovac, who led Frankfurt to victory over his future club in last season’s German Cup final, is going for his first league title as coach. But his team missed the chance to clinch it in a scoreless draw at Leipzig last weekend and dropped points at relegated Nuremberg two weeks before.

That Bayern is still in contention has more to do with rival Borussia Dortmund’s inability to defend a lead. Dortmund led Bayern by nine points earlier in the season and has developed an inopportune habit of conceding late goals.

Dortmund could yet win the Bundesliga title with a victory at Borussia Moenchengladbach if Frankfurt beats Bayern in Munich at the same time.

Kovac, who played as a defensive midfielder for Bayern from 2001-03, said Thursday he was uninterested in the speculation over his coaching future.

“I’m totally independent. I don’t need to earn millions. Money is not my primary concern. Whatever comes, comes,” said Kovac, who has a contract at Bayern through 2021.

“I like this job and would like to fulfill my contract,” Kovac said. “And I’ve never given up on anything in my life – never.”

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

Bayern beats Bremen 3-2 to reach German Cup final

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BREMEN, Germany (AP) Robert Lewandowski sent Bayern Munich into the German Cup final by scoring twice in a 3-2 win over Werder Bremen on Wednesday, including the winner in the 80th minute.

Bayern built a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead after Lewandowski opened the scoring in the 36th minute by turning in a header from Thomas Mueller, who added the second in the 63rd.

But Bremen staged a quick comeback with two goals in the span of two minutes through Yuya Osako and Milot Rashica.

However, Kingsley Coman was fouled inside the box in the 80th minute and Lewandowski converted the penalty to set up a final against RB Leipzig.

“In my opinion, we deserve to reach the final because we had better chances than Bremen,” Bayern coach Niko Kovac said.

“It was a great fight, as expected, and in the end we needed that little bit of luck.”

Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman fight

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Bayern Munich is back atop the Bundesliga, but it’s not all sunshine and roses at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern boss Niko Kovac confirmed that the Bavarian side had a training ground fist fight on its hands this week.

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The combatants? Golden Boot winner Robert Lewandowski and young playmaker Kingsley Coman.

“The three of us talked about it. The players are sorry and have apologized for their behaviour,” said Kovac. “There will be no financial penalties and the matter has been resolved.”

Lewandowski has 35 goals and 13 assists in 39 matches across all competitions, while Coman missed September, October, and November and has six goals and two assists in 22.

The Polish striker was also massive in Bayern’s 5-0 demolition of Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker last weekend. Bayern leads the table by a point with six matches to play.

Muller’s wife apologizes after posting criticism of Bayern boss Kovac

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Bayern Munich has seemingly turned around its poor early-season form, but things don’t appear to be completely squeaky clean in Bavaria.

The German giants have been forced to issue an all-clear statement after the wife of Thomas Muller posted critical comments of Bayern manager Niko Kovac after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Freiburg. Lisa Muller posted a picture on her Instagram story of Thomas coming off the bench in the 70th minute, appearing to have been taken from the stands – likely by her – with the caption “More than 70 minutes until he [Kovac] had flash of genius.”

The post was eventually deleted but the damage had been done. Bayern released a statement saying that Lisa eventually apologized to Kovac, and the manager had no issues with the incident in his post-match press conference, insinuating that he has no problems taking criticism, and treated Lisa like any other passionate fan who has their own personal opinions.

“There’s nothing to clarify,” Kovac said. “Obviously it wasn’t Thomas himself who wrote that.”

Thomas was also asked about it after the match, and while he said she probably should have thought twice about posting, he supported his wife and her independent thoughts. “It was out of emotion,” Muller said. “In retrospect I don’t think it was super. But she just loves me, what should I do?”

Bayern led 1-0 on a Serge Gnabry goal at the time Muller came on the pitch, but Lucas Holer equalized in the 89th minute as the defending German champions failed to win for the first time in four matches across all competitions. They sit third in the Bundesliga table on 20 points, four points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund after struggles earlier in the year.