“We’re in for a tough task” – Niko Kovac on Hannover
With only a few days until the meeting with Hannover 96, Eintracht coach Niko Kovac discusses the international break, the current personnel situation and their opponents’ strong start to the season.
Niko, the international break is now over. What’s your take on the players who have been on international duty over the last week?
Niko Kovac: “Our internationals have done well. All of them got minutes on the pitch, all of them have come back in good health. I’m particularly pleased that in Mijat Gacinovic we have another player who’s qualified for the World Cup next year. It’s nice for us as a club and obviously for him as a player too. Because of the way he’s been playing, he’s managed to get regular call-ups and appearances for Serbia and has made a good impression. The World Cup will be a highlight for him in his fledgling career.”
Is Mijat Gacinovic an option again for the match against Hannover?
Niko Kovac: “Certainly, he’s fit enough. He only played in Serbia’s first game. He’s someone who gives 100 per cent in every training session and every match. Sometimes you even have to slow him down, but that’s the way he is and it’s very positive.”
What’s the situation with Carlos Salcedo?
Niko Kovac: “After playing 90 minutes for Mexico in their first game, he didn’t play in their second game last night so he should be fine. He’ll be back with the squad on Thursday. We hope that he’s fit and he can be an option on Saturday, particularly as Simon Falette’s suspended for two games and we need another centre-back.”
How’s the personnel situation looking otherwise?
Niko Kovac: “Slobodan Medojevic has a problem with his calf and hasn’t been able to train properly. Marc Stendera is ill so it’ll be touch-and-go with him for the weekend. Sebastian Haller also has a cold so we’ll have to see how that develops, but I expect him to be available. If not, we’ll find an adequate replacement. Luka Jovic, for example, showed what he can do with two goals for the Serbia U-21 team. Otherwise, everyone is available apart from the long-term absentees. Makoto Hasebe is training fully again and his knee is doing well, and I hope it stays that way.”
Is Makoto more of an alternative in midfield or the centre of defence?
Niko Kovac: “He can play in both positions. Where he plays also depends on how we set up as a team, so whether we play with three or four at the back. Both have pros and cons. For Makoto the most important thing is that he’s fit. Then we’ll find a place for him and he’ll do a job as he always does.”
Have you been able to have a bit of a rest yourself in the last few days?
Niko Kovac: “I’ve actually had a bit of a cold myself but it’s always nice when you can switch off for a bit and the focus turns to the national team coaches. But you never have a proper break, and ultimately you have to start preparing for the next games again. It’s extremely tight in the Bundesliga at the moment so you need every ounce.”
What are you expecting from the match at Hannover on Saturday?
Niko Kovac: “For me Hannover aren't a promoted side but a real Bundesliga side. They deserve to be as high as they are in the table. They play as a unit and work extremely hard with and without the ball. They certainly don’t play the level of football that Borussia Dortmund do but I like how they work as a team. So we’re in for a tough task on Saturday. We need to show the qualities that marked us out in the first half of last season over 90 minutes. If we do that then we have a chance. Any team that doesn’t will find it difficult at Hannover, as the first few games of the season showed.”