MUNICH: Bayern Munich host Ajax in the Champions League on Tuesday with Niko Kovac needing to fix a leaking defence and lack of finishing after yielding top spot in the Bundesliga.
The clash at Munich’s Allianz Arena could well decide Group E after Bayern claimed a 2-0 win at Benfica in the opening round a fortnight ago while Ajax won 3-0 at Greek side AEK.
Dauntingly for Ajax, Bayern have won the last 12 matches at home in the Champions League’s group stages.
However, the five-time European champions finished the weekend second in the German league after crashing to a shock 2-0 defeat at Hertha Berlin on Friday after being outplayed in the capital.
“It is an important game against Ajax. A win would make things easier for us going into our next four games,” said Bayern head coach Kovac.
“Many people said we wouldn’t lose a game in the (Bundesliga) this season, but now it has happened in no time at all,” he added.
Uncharacteristically for Bayern, they leaked a late equaliser in a 1-1 league draw with Augsburg last Tuesday, which was followed by the defeat in Berlin, but Kovac remains unfazed.
“You have to differentiate, one is not directly linked to the other,” he insisted.
“You could also say we won seven out of nine games.”
However, the Bayern boss will be troubled by the ease with which Pal Dardai’s Hertha unpicked the lock of the Bayern defence.
He will seek a tighter performance against Ajax, who are second in the Dutch league after a 2-0 win at Fortuna Sittard on Saturday.
Ajax coach Erik ten Hag will have taken note of how Bayern’s defence was shaken in the first half by Berlin.
Jerome Boateng needlessly gave away penalty by fouling Salomon Kalou which Vedad Ibisevic converted for the opening goal.
Niklas Suele, Bayern’s other centre-back, was out of position when Hertha’s Ondrej Duda, the league’s current top-scorer with five goals in six games, smashed home a close-range cross.
Bayern’s star-studded attack also has a point to prove against Ajax after just having just one Arjen Robben goal, in the draw with Augsburg, to show for 40 shots on goal in their last two games.
Even the likes of James Rodriguez, Franck Ribery, Robben and Robert Lewandowski could not breach Berlin’s defence despite 25 shots.
Kovac is concerned by a lack of precision after his team “were not clinical” and more mistakes in defence “will be punished” against the Dutch.
Nevertheless, a win over Ajax would boost confidence before Saturday’s home league match against Borussia Moenchengladbach when they can aim to make up the one-point gap behind new Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.
Historically, there is nothing separating Bayern and Ajax, who have three wins each, plus two draws, in their previous eight meetings.