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Kovac: Kimmich is an option for the midfield to replace Thiago

Niko Kovac was optimistic and confident ahead of Bayern Munich’s clash with SC Freiburg, despite constant criticism of the team’s recent form.

MUNICH, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 01: Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich, goalkeeper Sven Ulreich and Sandro Wagner (L-R) of FC Bayern Muenchen arrive for a training session at the club's Saebener Strasse training ground on November 1, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
Joshua Kimmich can do it all.
Photo by A. Beier/Getty Images for FC Bayern

Bayern Munich’s head coach Niko Kovac was his usual positive, matter-of-fact self at today’s press conference before the team hosts SC Freiburg tomorrow (10:30 am EST). Kovac anticipates “an uncomfortable team” in Freiburg. “They’re having a good season. Christian Streich has been doing that on a world-class level for years.”

Freiburg: “uncomfortable team”

Kovac would know from personal experience: as Bild points out, his own record against Streich from his time in Frankfurt is his worst against any coach in as many games: 0-2-2. As Kovac also must plan for Bayern’s midweek match against AEK Athens, he will undoubtedly be glad to grab three points from Freiburg at the Allianz Arena by any means necessary.

Kovac was unapologetic about hard-fought wins:

We can win games in which we had to work hard. You can’t always play spectacularly. We also have another face. If we can combine, that’ll take us far.

World champions and Champions League winners aren’t machines. Even these players can feel insecure. You think longer about a bad pass when things aren’t going well. Your head starts to think about things, whether you’re a player or a journalist. These are all people of flesh and blood.

Kimmich an option for the midfield

The biggest statement of the presser concerned the question of how Kovac might possibly replace Thiago Alcantara, who has been arguably the most important player on the team this season at the heart of Bayern’s midfield. Kovac described Thiago’s injury as “very annoying. He has played an extraordinary season so far” (SZ). Kovac refused to be negative, however, adding, “Now the others can show that they can do.”

Kovac then raised one possibility for Bayern’s midfield that none of us here at BFW foresaw: moving starting right-back Joshua Kimmich in the central midfield just as Jogi Löw has done at the German national team. Kovac said,

We don’t have all too many midfield players who can cover this position. He will be an alternative for the future.

Since Rafinha has now recovered from his ankle injury, that gives Bayern just enough depth to spare Kimmich at right-back. Whether Kovac follows through on the idea against Freiburg or perhaps on Wednesday against AEK Athens remains to be seen.

Looking ahead to Borussia Dortmund

As if a midweek match against AEK were not worrisome enough, Bayern face first-place Borussia Dortmund next Saturday. Kovac declined to speculate too far into the future:

As a coach, you can’t think around the corner and two, three steps past that. Right now we want to win the fifth game and then on Wednesday take a big step toward the round of sixteen in the Champions League against Athens.

One game at a time — or at most two — seems to be the motto.

And lastly about Halloween

Kovac also declined to comment on Bayern’s Halloween party and Rafinha’s ill-advised costume choice:

I’m a coach. I can’t control my players’ private lives. I think it’s good when the players get together. The spirit is alive in this team. We have a positive working environment. There are interpretations. I personally don’t celebrate Halloween.

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