Niko Kovac accepts his job as Bayern Munich boss is under serious threat but has refused to quit following Saturday's 5-1 loss to former club Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Bundesliga champions had Jerome Boateng sent off nine minutes into the clash at Commerzbank-Arena and were made to pay as they suffered their biggest league defeat since 2008-09.

In-form striker Robert Lewandowski was on target for Bayern after Filip Kostic and Djibril Sow had put Frankfurt two goals ahead, but David Abraham, Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia struck in the second half to pile the pressure on Kovac.

Bayern have now dropped points in half of their 10 league matches this term and are fourth in the table, four points adrift of surprise leaders Borussia Monchengladbach.

However, Kovac is standing firm amid speculation that Bayern chiefs are preparing to pull the trigger ahead of next weekend's Klassiker showdown with Borussia Dortmund.

"I did not give up last season and I will not give up now," he said at his post-match news conference. "When it comes to such situations, you must not get restless.

"I leave here sad and disappointed. I'm not starry-eyed – I know the business. But I will not give up."

Further pressed on his future at the Allianz Arena, Kovac said: "How should I know? You probably know better. I cannot say anything about that.

"My feelings are not important. Those who decide must be asked."

Bayern have conceded 16 goals in their opening 10 league matches, the most they have let in since 2008-09, and Kovac admitted his side struggled after Boateng's early dismissal.

The experienced centre-back was shown the seventh red card of his Bundesliga career for a last-man tackle on Paciencia inside the opening nine minutes.

"We got a red card and if you play with ten players for 80 minutes, it will be difficult in Frankfurt," he said. "That did not make it easy for us. But you cannot lose even with a man less. It is disappointing and annoying. 

"It cannot be used as an excuse. We still did not play like we should in the first half."

Victory for Frankfurt was their first over Bayern in 17 attempts and lifted them to within a point of their opponents.

"This was not to be expected," Frankfurt boss Adi Hutter told reporters. "I didn't have a good record against them, but we caught them at a good time. 

"We have a great collective and our players took their chances. We are very happy today."

Niko Kovac says he will continue to be honest despite angering Bayern Munich supporters by suggesting former club Eintracht Frankfurt have the best fans in Germany.

Bayern are second in the Bundesliga and needed late goals from Serge Gnabry and Thomas Miller to overcome second-tier Bochum 2-1 in the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday, saving under-fire boss Kovac from further scrutiny.

But Kovac risked backlash speaking after the game as he talked up supporters of Eintracht, Bayern's next league opponents.

Given the opportunity to redress his comments on Thursday, the 48-year-old chose instead to defend his right to have an opinion on such matters.

"I watched three of their [Europa League] qualifying games at the beginning of the season - there was some great choreography and I thought it was great," said Kovac, who won the DFB-Pokal with Frankfurt in 2017-18.

"We also have great fans. I felt that last season, especially towards the end against Frankfurt and also in the cup when my name was chanted. 

"I know how important the fans are for us. I did not say we have bad fans - they are also great. But in the big picture, Frankfurt have a great and unique atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the Bundesliga.

"I will not change myself or my character. If honesty is no longer desirable in this day and age, we can pack it in. I will not change."

Kovac questioned the attitude of his players following their comeback win at Bochum and is now keen to see Bayern start games in more impressive fashion.

"[Bochum] had a huge chance after 40 seconds. I expect my side to be ready from the first minute," he said. "We know we have the quality, but we have to work the same as others."

Bayern have won three in a row in all competitions but are seven games without a clean sheet and have struggled to dominate matches as in the past, leading to criticism from chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Not since 2008-09 have they conceded more goals in their opening nine Bundesliga matches, and Kovac is working on a solution.

"Football is a sport that is results-oriented, but the best combination is to win and play well," he said. "We are not able to do that right now. We have to gain confidence through small victories.

"If you lose the ball five times, it will be difficult to offer yourself a sixth time and then your knees will start to shake, so you have to try to get into a rhythm right from the beginning."

The prolific Robert Lewandowski moved into the Bundesliga record books as he helped Bayern Munich to a 2-1 victory over Union Berlin.

Having matched Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's record of scoring in the opening eight Bundesliga matches of a season when he found the target against Augsburg, Lewandowski became the first player to net in the first nine games of a campaign when he grabbed Bayern's second seven minutes into the second half.

It was a typically composed finish from Lewandowski, who up until that point had been well shackled by Union either side of Benjamin Pavard's superb strike giving Bayern the lead.

Sebastian Andersson missed a penalty for Union on 58 minutes and, although Sebastian Polter converted a second spot-kick for the visitors late on, Bayern held firm to secure a first win in three league matches and move top of the table.

Pavard lit up what had been an uneventful opening in the 13th minute, slamming home on the half-volley from Rafal Gikiewicz's poor punch.

Hunting his record-setting goal, Lewandowski went close moments later, just failing to connect with Kingsley Coman's acrobatic cut-back.

Coman was the provider for Bayern's next opportunity, playing a neat one-two with Thomas Muller, who drilled his effort straight at Gikiewicz. Union's goalkeeper then kept out Philippe Coutinho's deflected shot before half-time.

Bayern soon had their second, though. After a fine run from full debutant Alphonso Davies, Lewandowski pounced on a loose ball, setting himself before slotting home into the bottom-right corner.

Union were handed a lifeline when referee Marco Fritz utilised VAR to award a penalty for Ivan Perisic's handball, but Manuel Neuer comfortably kept out Andersson's effort. 

After Lewandowski saw a second goal ruled out for offside, Pavard gifted Union a reprieve with a reckless foul on Polter, who made no mistake with a spot-kick that ultimately came too late.

What does it mean? Bayern top of the pile... for now

It is hugely congested at the top of the Bundesliga but, with this win, Niko Kovac's side nosed themselves ahead of the pack.

However, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg could both leapfrog the champions should they win their respective matches on Sunday.

Remarkable Robert at it again

It has been an incredible start to the season for Lewandowski and the Poland international has now capped that off by planting himself into the league's record books.

The 31-year-old has 18 goals from 13 appearances in all club competitions so far this season and, with the Bundesliga so tight at the top as it stands, his form could well be what separates Bayern from the rest.

Andersson fluffs his lines

Union's Swedish forward does have three Bundesliga goals to his name this term, though the last one came on September 14 and he displayed a severe lack of confidence when he stepped up to take a spot-kick, ultimately squandering Union's chance to tee up a grandstand finish.

What's next?

Bayern visit Bochum in the DFB-Pokal in midweek, while Union travel to high-fliers Freiburg in the same competition. Eintracht Frankfurt are next up for Bayern in the Bundesliga.

Niko Kovac has played down talk that he is close to being sacked by Bayern Munich after coming in for criticism from chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Bayern earned a 3-2 win away to Olympiacos on Tuesday to maintain their perfect start in Champions League Group B, but their performance was not convincing.

Speaking in an interview after the game, Rummenigge accused Bayern of playing "too recklessly" and predicted they will run into more problems.

The pressure has grown on Kovac following a home defeat to Hoffenheim and away draw with Augsburg prior to their victory in Greece, but the 48-year-old claimed the speculation over his future has been blown out of proportion.

"When he spoke about carelessness, everyone knows what he meant," Kovac told reporters ahead of Saturday's home league match with Union Berlin. 

"Everyone expects wins - and beautiful football. We expect that too. But you cannot always play nice football. First and foremost, you have to be successful.

"We're struggling defensively at the moment. We're making too many individual mistakes. We have to win our duels and minimise the opponents' chances, then we'll win our games quieter than on Tuesday.

"I can tell you, I'm in contact with my bosses, this storm is being blown in from outside, so I'm quite relaxed. The experience over the past year has been very helpful to me."

Kovac is not the only Bundesliga boss reportedly under threat of being sacked, with Borussia Dortmund counterpart Lucien Favre also in the firing line.

However, with the title rivals due to meet in two weeks, Kovac has questioned why Favre's job is supposedly on the line.

"We're on matchday eight and the coach's future is already being discussed," he said. "It's not just Bayern, but also other clubs. We talk about respect, but this has got nothing to do with respect.

"Lucien has the same points tally as us, has lost one game in the Champions League, and they're still in the [domestic] cup - yet names of possible replacements are already being mentioned. 

"I don't understand. Sometimes the views of a minority is portrayed as majority. You have to be careful."

The biggest shining light for Bayern this term has been the incredible form of [Robert] Lewandowski, who scored for the 12th game running in the victory over Olympiacos.

"I think that he is playing the season of his life," Kovac said. "He enjoys a high status at the club. He is physically in top shape. 

"That gives him the necessary concentration in front of the goal. We are glad to have him."

Thibaut Courtois made the move to Real Madrid in 2018, but he is already seemingly under pressure in Spain.

Life at the Santiago Bernabeu has not gone according to plan for the former Chelsea goalkeeper.

And Madrid already have their eyes on a potential replacement…

 

TOP STORY – MADRID EYE SIMON AS COURTOIS REPLACEMENT

Real Madrid have identified Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon as a potential replacement for Thibaut Courtois, according to El Desmarque.

Courtois swapped Chelsea for Madrid in 2018, yet the Belgium international has not convinced amid growing criticism in the Spanish capital.

Simon has reportedly attracted interest from Madrid, who would need to pay the 22-year-old's €50million release clause.

 

ROUND-UP

Borussia Dortmund fear losing Manchester United target Jadon Sancho, according to Sport1. Sancho was suspended for last week's Bundesliga win over Borussia Monchengladbach after returning late from international duty.

- Sport claims Barcelona are ready to offload midfielders Ivan Rakitic, Carles Alena and Riqui Puig in January. Rakitic has been heavily linked to Serie A side Inter, while Tottenham are rumoured to be interested in Alena.

Manchester United have been given a boost in their pursuit of Mario Mandzukic after the Juventus striker slashed his wage demands, according to The Sun. Mandzukic is out of favour in Turin and set to leave in the January transfer window.

- Sport Bild says Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel has turned down offers from Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and Roma. The 23-year-old only wants to join Bayern Munich should he leave Schalke when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- The German publication also claims Ralf Rangnick is a candidate to replace Niko Kovac if Bayern Munich decide to part with their current head coach. Bild, however, also says Rangnick is a candidate at Manchester United.

- Calciomercato says AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund are interested in Bayern Munich centre-back Lars Lukas Mai. Dortmund is believed to be the teenager's favoured destination.

- Real Madrid have informed Brahim Diaz he can leave the LaLiga club, reports AS. It comes less than a year after his arrival from Manchester City.

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag has refused to rule out a high-profile return to Bayern Munich.

Dutchman Ten Hag coached Bayern's reserves from 2013 to 2015 before returning to his homeland to join FC Utrecht.

The 49-year-old then moved to Ajax and led the powerhouse to the Eredivisie title last term, as well as the Champions League semi-finals.

Bayern have struggled for consistency in the Bundesliga this season and sit third in the table, just one point above ninth-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

As a result, Bayern coach Niko Kovac's future has been the subject of speculation, and when asked by Kicker if he would be open to going back to the Bundesliga giants, Ten Hag said: "I do not exclude anything."

"But I'm almost 50 and [I am] not a dreamer. It comes - or it does not come."

Asked to comment on his time in Munich, Ten Hag added: "For me, it was about coming to an association like Bayern.

"Pep Guardiola was there, and more importantly, [sporting director] Matthias Sammer with his strategic approach and mentality, which he brings to a club.

"Under Guardiola, Bayern played dominant [football] … everyone on the pitch knew what he had to do."

Despite the big-money departures of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, Ajax have started the 2019-20 campaign in good fashion, winning eight of a possible 10 Eredivisie matches to top the table, three points ahead of rivals PSV.

Bayern Munich's missed chances at Augsburg left coach Niko Kovac and star winger Serge Gnabry frustrated as the Bundesliga champions had to settle for a point.

Kovac's side recovered from Marco Richter's first-minute opener and then led when Gnabry teed up Robert Lewandowski before scoring himself.

However, Bayern passed up two big opportunities to stretch their lead, with Augsburg goalkeeper Tomas Koubek excelling while Thomas Muller, who has made his frustration at a lack of match action clear, was guilty of a glaring miss.

This profligacy came back to bite Bayern as Alfred Finnbogason struck in second-half stoppage-time, pouncing on an error from Lucas Hernandez - another man in the spotlight following a fitness row with France.

Both the slow start and the failure to put the game to bed were of great annoyance to Kovac as he faced the media at full-time, with his side third ahead of leaders Borussia Monchengladbach's clash with Borussia Dortmund.

"We started very badly in the game. That must not happen to us, as we have previously pointed out," he said. "We have to be awake [immediately] and not be there in five minutes.

"But then we had everything under control. We had the ball and huge chances but did not score them. If you cannot do that, you cannot concede a second goal at the back.

"Two shots on goal, two goals [for Augsburg]. That annoys me."

Gnabry took a similar tact, adding: "We have moved on from the last game against Hoffenheim [a 2-1 defeat before the international break]. We came out fresh and played a great game, controlling it all the time.

"We ended up with two almost 100 per cent chances to get a third. If we score, the game is over. That's where we spoiled it.

"We had a lot of possession and a lot of chances - we should have won, but we were a bit too careless and then something happened at the back. That's football."

Niko Kovac has conceded Bayern Munich "have a very bad feeling" over Niklas Sule's condition after the defender sustained an injury in the Bundesliga draw with Augsburg.

With Bayern 1-0 down to Alfred Finnbogason's first-minute opener, Sule went down clutching his left leg after going into a challenge with Florian Niederlechner.

After receiving treatment, Sule did manage to walk off the pitch, though it is feared the 24-year-old Germany international may have sustained cruciate ligament damage.

Kovac confirmed the news was not good, though Bayern's coach still harboured some hope the ligaments had not sustained serious damage.

"It looks like he's seriously injured, so we'll have to wait for the scans, but have a very bad feeling," Kovac told a news conference.

"We hope the cruciate ligaments are spared, otherwise we would miss Niki for a while.

"The general feeling isn't good. We need to wait and see what has happened and hope for the best."

Sule, who has been one of Bayern's most consistent performers since Kovac took over, had started 12 matches in all competitions this term.

Augsburg scored after 30 seconds and again in second-half stoppage time to claim a dramatic 2-2 draw at home to Bayern Munich, as Niklas Sule suffered an injury that will have the Bundesliga champions concerned.

Richter scored in the opening minute for hosts Augsburg on Saturday as Bayern struggled to bounce back from the loss they suffered to Hoffenheim before the international break.

But after the visitors lost a distressed Sule to injury, Serge Gnabry set up Robert Lewandowski to net for a record-equalling eighth straight game at the start of a Bundesliga campaign.

Former Arsenal youngster Gnabry then scored himself in the second half.

That would not prove to be the winner, though, Alfred Finnbogason tapping in one minute into added time to stun Niko Kovac's side.

Had Bayern won, they would have returned to the top of the Bundesliga after Wolfsburg lost at RB Leipzig. Instead, Bayern were left a point off the pace, with Borussia Monchengladbach in with a chance to extend their lead when they played Borussia Dortmund later on Saturday.

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac accepts he made a mistake with comments that suggested Thomas Muller would be left on the fringes of the first team.

Muller, 30, has made just three starts in the Bundesliga this season, failing to score a single goal, as Kovac appears to favour other options in attack and out wide.

Ahead of the 2-1 defeat to Hoffenheim – in which Muller appeared as a substitute – Kovac suggested the German would only get an opportunity "when we're short of options".

Muller confirmed his frustration with the situation in an interview during the international break, while he has since been linked with a move away from the Allianz Arena.

But Kovac revealed he spoke to Muller in private to clarify his comments, as he believes he chose his words incorrectly.

"I cannot say who will play at the weekend - as for the statement, it was a mistake of mine," Kovac told reporters ahead of Saturday's trip to Augsburg.

"I incorrectly articulated my thoughts, but I disproved my own statement with the fact Thomas has been coming [into matches] recently.

"I spoke with Thomas the next day, everything was cleared up and he understood it the way I meant it, so I made a mistake – it happens to me too, that's life.

"We talked about it, but no matter which player it is, everyone who doesn't play is unhappy. I have to make decisions as a coach and I can't start more than 11 players, I have to find the team I think can win the game.

"For people from the outside, a coach basically does nothing right. I won't let myself be guided. We have our own ideas and we will implement those."

Bayern go into the weekend third in the Bundesliga table, two points adrift of early leaders Borussia Monchengladbach.

Philippe Coutinho plays as if he is "dancing with the ball" and fans of Bayern Munich and Paderborn would have enjoyed his display in Saturday's Bundesliga encounter, said head coach Niko Kovac.

Midfield playmaker Coutinho, on a season-long loan from LaLiga champions Barcelona, was influential as Bayern defeated Paderborn 3-2, assisting Serge Gnabry's opener and scoring when his team-mate returned the favour.

Coutinho has impressed early on in his Bayern career and Kovac was full of praise for his showing at the Benteler-Arena.

"He [Coutinho] speaks for himself. At the end of the day, everyone who was at the stadium today, everyone who saw today's game, was able to see once again the skills that he possesses, what kind of qualities he has with the ball," Kovac said. 

"At times it really looks like he's dancing with the ball, you have to say it like that. He knows exactly what to do when, how and where with the ball. 

"The first goal he assists magnificently, but immediately after the pass he sprints into the box because he also wants to score.

"And for his goal, the combination was the other way around. Serge [Gnabry] assists him after a superb pass. That's individual quality. 

"He will definitely help us even more, he's already contributing well, he's integrated and happy here. 

"And when a player from South America, from Brazil, is happy, with that kind of quality, you can see how fantastic that is. 

"No matter whether you're a Paderborn, Bayern or any other supporter, you have enjoyed [his performance]."

Bayern were coasting at 2-0 after Coutinho's goal in the 55th minute but efforts from Kai Proger and Jamilu Collins either side of Robert Lewandowski's strike ensured a nervy ending.

"We made the game difficult for ourselves," Kovac admitted. "We could've decided the match during the first half. 

"In my opinion we had to decide it. Second half, going into it with a 1-0 lead, even when it's 2-0 or 2-1, that's always a small advantage. 

"We brought them back into the match, we didn't play the way I wanted in the second half, but I'm satisfied with the result. 

"With the way we played, obviously I'm not satisfied. Therefore, there's not much more to be added."

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