BERLIN (Reuters) - Coach Pep Guardiola's future is in doubt as Bayern Munich prepare to visit third from bottom Hanover 96 on Saturday, the final match for the champions before the Bundesliga takes a month-long winter break.
The 44-year-old Spaniard, whose three-year contract with the league leaders expires at the end of the season, hinted to reporters last weekend that a decision would be made after the match against Hanover although the club are saying an official announcement may take a little longer to arrive.
Guardiola, who joined the Bavarians in 2013 after leading Barcelona to 14 titles in four years, is one of the most sought-after coaches in world football.
Bayern are desperate for him to stay, having led the team to two consecutive Bundesliga titles and with the squad on target for an unprecedented fourth straight domestic crown.
They have also reached the Champions League semi-finals in Guardiola's two seasons although victory in the competition he won with Barcelona has so far eluded him in Munich.
With his coach heavily linked by media reports with a move to Manchester City, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently said the Bavarians were obviously not the only club vying for Guardiola's signature but that he hoped to receive a "Christmas surprise".
Rummenigge added that Bayern would simply plough on should the Spaniard decide to leave.
"Players come and players go, coaches come and they also go at some point. We just keep going," he said.
The fact that Guardiola's good friend Txiki Begiristain works behind the scenes at Manchester City has boosted the speculation linking him with the English club but Chelsea and Manchester United are also viewed as potential destinations for the coach.
Another season with Bayern would seem to make little sense if he won the Champions League this season while Guardiola can expect a big salary hike if he moves to the cash-rich Premier League.
"I am very curious," said Bayern and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. "We are now expecting the decision and will see what happens."
Bayern are already certain to secure the tag of 'winter champions', having opened a five-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund who travel to Cologne on Saturday.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Tony Jimenez