March 7, 2019 / 9:45 AM / 19 days ago

Soccer: Irritated Bayern trio out to prove their worth - Kovac

BERLIN (Reuters) - World Cup winners Thomas Mueller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng have extra motivation for Bayern’s home match against VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday after being told they will no longer play for Germany, the champions’ coach Niko Kovac has said.

Soccer Football - Bundesliga - Borussia Moenchengladbach v Bayern Munich - Borussia-Park, Moenchengladbach, Germany - March 2, 2019 Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac before the match REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

The Bavarians are in stellar form, having won 11 of their last 12 league matches, and have cut leaders Borussia Dortmund’s advantage from seven points to a two-goal goal difference in recent weeks.

Germany coach Joachim Loew said on Tuesday he wanted to give the team a new face and the trio, who were keys players in their 2014 World Cup victory and have 246 caps among them, would not feature in his plans any longer.

All three were part of Germany’s disappointing first round exit at last year’s World Cup.

“I know that my players were surprised by Loew’s decision,” Kovac told reporters. “But they are real pros and they know how to handle this situation in a serious way.

“I even expect, especially in the coming weeks, a response from them to show and prove that they are still part of the best.”

The players were, indeed, surprised by the announcement with Mueller saying he was left puzzled by ‘the suggested finality’ of his international career at age 29.

Jerome Boateng, 30, was equally taken aback and ‘would have wished a different departure’.

Their club questioned Loew’s timing, a week before their Champions League Round of 16 second leg and as the Bundesliga title race heats up.

“We consider the timing and circumstances of the decision’s announcement as questionable,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement.

“We are irritated by the fact that players and the public were informed right before the key match in the title race against VfL Wolfsburg and only a few days before the Champions League return leg against Liverpool on Wednesday.

“Furthermore we are surprised that this happened after an unannounced visit to Bayern.”

The Bavarians will need to quickly refocus with Wolfsburg on a five-game unbeaten run that has lifted them to seventh and in contention for a European spot.

Leaders Dortmund, who crashed out of the Champions League in midweek to Tottenham Hotspur, now have only the league title left to fight for.

The season looked different for them just four weeks back but their German Cup elimination and implosion in the league means only a win will do against VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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