Niko Kovac backs Bayern Munich to find another gear in the Bundesliga

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Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac believes his squad are ready to step things up again as they look to deliver a seventh successive Bundesliga title.

The Croatian took over at the Allianz Arena following the retirement of Jupp Heynckes, and has a tough legacy to live up to.

In the Super Cup, Bayern coasted to a 5-0 win against Eintracht Frankfurt, Kovac’s former club.

However, last weekend the champions needed a late goal from Robert Lewandowski to finally see off Regionalliga outfit SV Dochtersen/Assel 1-0 in the DFB-Pokal.

The new Bundesliga campaign starts on Friday night, with Bayern at home against Hoffenheim.

Kovac, who guided Frankfurt to success in the German Cup last season, insists his Bayern players will meet the challenges in front of them head on once again.

“Of course I want to win the championship, but I am also happy there are competitors (for the title) out there – competition makes things more interesting,” Kovac said at a press conference.

“When our opponents are good, then we have to be good or to be even better, that can only help us.

“I’m convinced that my team will have a solid outing tomorrow, because we are physically and technically at an extremely high level.

“However, we will really have to go to the limits and cannot take this game lightly.”

Lewandowski had scored a hat-trick in the Super Cup.

However, in an interview this week, the veteran Poland forward spoke of how he felt a lack of support from the club during a testing personal spell towards the end of last season.

Kovac, though, hopes both the player and his new Bayern squad can put the issues firmly behind them.

“I was not here last season, so I cannot evaluate if he was supported enough or not,” Kovac said.

“Generally speaking, everybody needs love, appreciation and support. He didnt feel that way, and that is the way it is.

“But what matters now is he is fresh and motivated. He has trained and played extraordinarily well, scoring four important goals for us already.

“You can see that he is absolutely determined to give everything for this club. I’m happy about that, so are his team-mates and the fans.”

Hoffenheim, meanwhile, coasted past Kaiserslautern in their cup tie, running out 6-1 winners.

However, Die Kraichgauer have won only two of their previous 20 clashes with Bayern in the Bundesliga.

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Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero lead the way in our European Team of the Week

Tom Biggs 21/08/2018
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On a weekend in which Barcelona got their La Liga campaign underway and Manchester City claimed yet another victory in the Premier League, there were goals aplenty across Europe’s top-five leagues.

Here, we pick out the individuals stars from the latest round of matches with our European Team of the Weekend.

GK: Edouard Mendy (Reims)

It has been quite the start to life in Ligue 1 for Reims. After kicking off with a 2-1 win away at Nice, they picked up an impressive 1-0 victory at home to Lyon. Mendy was outstanding in goal for the hosts, denying last season’s third-placed side on numerous occasions. The 26-year-old kept Memphis Depay, Houssem Aouar and Maxwel Cornet at bay in the second half as Lyon pushed for an equaliser.

RB: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid)

Dani Carvajal netted Real Madrid's opening goal of the LaLiga season

Dani Carvajal netted Real Madrid’s opening goal of the LaLiga season

An excellent opening-day performance from Real Madrid right-back Carvajal, as he played a key role in the win against Getafe. The Spaniard was on hand to open the scoring with a clever header, while offensively he was involved regularly, with only Marcelo and Toni Kroos having more touches. Defensively, Carvajal made two tackles and four clearances to help Julen Lopetegui’s men start their La Liga campaign with a clean sheet.

CB: Nacho (Real Madrid)

A second Real Madrid defender in our Team of the Week. Nacho was named in the side ahead of Raphael Varane by Lopetegui and he certainly made his mark with an impressive defensive display. The Spaniard made the joint-most tackles (2) and interceptions (4) for his side, while also leading the way for clearances (3). Nacho’s last-man tackle to deny Getafe also preserved a clean sheet for his side.

CB: Thiago Cionek (SPAL 2013)

Experienced defender Cionek produced a stunning defensive display to help SPAL 2013 to an away victory against Bologna in Serie A. The Polish international made four tackles, two interceptions and nine clearances, as well as winning seven aerial duels as he helped his side to a clean sheet. He also impressed on the ball, with more touches and passes than any other SPAL player.

LB: Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)

One of three Manchester City players to feature in our team, Mendy was exceptional against Huddersfield. After his long-term injury last season, the left-back really is like a new signing for Pep Guardiola, with his heavy involvement going forward on show once again at the Etihad. Involved in three of City’s six goals, Mendy made twelve crosses in total, as well as three key passes.

CM: Miha Zajc (Empoli)

Attacking midfielder Zajc was instrumental as he helped Empoli get their Serie A season underway with a 2-0 win against Cagliari. The 26-year-old was influential in attacking areas for his side, making four key passes and three accurate crosses, while also assisting the decisive second goal for Francesco Caputo with a well-timed pass. Zajc also completed three dribbles as he proved a constant menace for the Cagliari defence.

CM: David Silva (Manchester City)

David Silva celebrates his sensational free-kick against Huddersfield

David Silva celebrates his sensational free-kick against Huddersfield

While Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick may have taken many of the headlines, Silva was arguably Manchester City’s best player on what was a memorable day for the Spaniard. Silva was City’s chief architect against a defensive Terriers outfit, finding space with ease and producing incisive, clever passes. With Kevin De Bruyne out injured, he stepped up to free-kick duties in style, delivering a perfect free-kick to help City ease to victory.

CM: Naby Keita (Liverpool)

Liverpool were made to wait, but they won’t be minding that one bit now. Keita has looked sharp in both games so far this season, providing a threat in an attacking sense and also helping out the back four. Against Crystal Palace, the Guinean was everywhere, making five tackles and one interception defensively, while also driving forward from midfield. One move, to set up a chance for Mohamed Salah, would arguably have been the best assist of the season, had the Egyptian netted.

ST: Andre Silva (Sevilla)

He’s already scored more goals (three) than he managed in the whole of last season. On loan at Sevilla from AC Milan, Silva’s debut could hardly have gone any better. He became the first player to net a hat-trick on his La Liga debut in the 21st century, as Sevilla beat Rayo Vallecano 4-1 away from home. He was in the right place at the right time on all three occasions to guide his side to victory.

ST: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

A sixth opening-day brace for Messi in La Liga. Barcelona’s new captain was at his very best against Alaves, producing the magic required to break down a resolute defence. The clever free-kick that handed his side the lead was majestic, before a well-taken second sealed the victory in the final moments. The 31-year-old also completed five key passes and six dribbles, leading the way for the reigning champions.

ST: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

A 13th Manchester City hat-trick for Aguero, who was in tantalising form against Huddersfield Town. The Argentinean looked dangerous from the first moment, and opened his account with a sumptuous chip. His second was all about being in the right place at the right time, as he pounced on a loose ball. Aguero was unlucky not to grab a third sooner than he did, but when it arrived, it was excellently taken, as he steered Mendy’s cross home.

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Why outburst from Bordeaux coach Gus Poyet has led to a one-week suspension

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Bordeaux manager Gus Poyet has been suspended for a week by the Ligue 1 club.

Bordeaux have suspended coach Gus Poyet for a week after he criticised the Ligue 1 outfit and accused them of selling a player behind his back.

Former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder Poyet took charge of Les Girondins in January and guided them to a place in the Europa League qualifiers.

But he upset the owners with an outpouring of anger aimed at their involvement in transfer dealings and has since been handed a one-week suspension.

Speaking at his press conference following a 2-1 Europa League qualifying win over Ukrainian outfit Mariupol, Poyet is reported to have claimed it was a “disgrace” that forward Gaetan Laborde had been sold to rivals Montpellier without his knowledge.

Poyet, who previously managed Brighton and Sunderland, was initially reported to have been sacked over the episode. That remains a possible future outcome after Bordeaux president Stephane Martin confirmed the suspension.

“We think he overstepped the mark,” Martin said at his own media briefing on Friday morning.

“The club has taken this decision. Concerning what led him to make these comments, that’s up to him, it’s for him to respond to that.

“You’ve been able to see the tension for two months but for the first six months there wasn’t any. The start of the transfer window marked the tensions which have only festered.

Poyet was Sunderland manager from 2013-15.

Poyet was Sunderland manager from 2013-15.

“It remains a surprise despite everything, an outburst as violent as that, after a victory. After such comments, it would seem complicated for me to act as if nothing happened.”

Martin did not rule out the potential of the situation being resolved amicably after announcing Poyet will meet with the club next week to discuss whether he will continue as boss.

Bordeaux later confirmed on their official website that fitness coach Eric Bedouet will take the reins for the Ligue 1 clash at Toulouse on Sunday, with Martin insisting no plans have been made to replace Poyet permanently.

“Listen, for the moment there is still a procedure which isn’t finished,” Martin added in his press conference, which was shown on Bordeaux’s website.

“Before talking about a future coach we have to wait until next Friday. At the moment we’re only talking about a lay-off.

“(Until) last night, changing coach wasn’t something we were thinking about. We are in particularly unusual circumstances, we’ve been caught off guard a little. Wait until next Friday.”

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