Berlin (AFP) – Niko Kovac hopes the Spanish-speaking trio Javi Martinez, James Rodriguez and Thiago Alcantara can help grab another win at Mainz on Saturday to push Bayern Munich up the Bundesliga table.
The defending German league champions go into the weekend fourth in the table and four points adrift of leaders Borussia Dortmund, who have a tough home tie against Hertha Berlin.
Mid-table Mainz are winless in their last five games and not expected to offer too much resistence to the Bavarian giants, who face Dortmund away in a fortnight in a mouth-watering showdown.
Kovac wants to keep faith with Martinez after the burly Spanish midfielder returned to the starting line-up for last Saturday’s 3-1 win at Wolfsburg, which lifted Bayern up from sixth in the table.
Martinez then got Bayern’s crucial first goal in a 2-0 mid-week win at AEK in the Champions League, much to the relief of Bayern head coach Kovac, who has Arjen Robben suspended after being sent off at Wolfsburg for two yellow cards.
“Martinez has shown me in recent weeks that he’s on fire,” Kovac explained in Friday’s press conference.
“As well as his footballing qualities, it helps that he speaks the same language (as James and Thiago).
“Javi’s doing well, especially as he forced the goal against Athens.”
James scored his third goal of the season at Wolfsburg and Kovac hopes to have the Colombian attacking midfielder fit again after he felt ill despite playing more than an hour of the win in Athens.
Likewise, Thiago is a solid fixture under Kovac having started 11 of Bayern’s 13 competitive fixtures so far this season.
“James has played two very good games, but he was a bit sick against Athens,” said Kovac.
“We’ll have to check that he’s not still under the weather.
“Thiago’s a great footballer. He always turns up and creates chances. He works hard.”
Should Rodriguez miss out in Mainz, Germany midfielder Thomas Mueller is set to be given a chance after starting the last two club games on the bench having also lost his starting berth in the Germany national side.
“Mueller isn’t lacking anything,” Kovac insisted when asked if Mueller has been dropped.
“We decided after the international break to give the team a rest.
“Everyone’s satisfied. This is just a snapshot.
“It doesn’t mean Mueller won’t play more games ahead.”
Kovac praised high-flying Dortmund, but made it clear the goal is to regain top spot in the table.
“What I see from Dortmund at the moment is very good,” said the Bayern coach.
“We need to put pressure on them and win our games up until the match in Dortmund, then take the opportunity to pass them.”
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