MUNICH: Veteran winger Arjen Robben will miss Bayern Munich’s last three games of 2018 with a leg injury, the defending Bundesliga champions confirmed Friday.
Robben, who turns 35 in January and has announced this will be his final season with Bayern, has missed five of the last seven matches with the Bavarian giants, who sit third in the league table and nine points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund.
Head coach Niko Kovac wants to give the fleet-footed forward time to recover fully from the leg knock before training resumes ahead of Bayern’s first game of 2019 on January 18 at Hoffenheim.
“The risk is too great that something will happen, so he will be treated to be fit again and ready for January 4 (when training resumes),” explained Kovac.
“We’ll give him the break he needs – it’s no use if he picks up a major injury.”
Robben misses Saturday’s away trip to second-from-bottom Hanover 96, Wednesday’s home match against RB Leipzig followed by an away trip to Eintracht Frankfurt, a first return to his ex-club for Kovac, on December 22 before the month-long Bundesliga winter break.
Kovac wants a maximum nine points from the three games inside seven days to ensure the gap behind Dortmund does not grow any bigger.
“We have to take everything we can get to keep up the pressure,” said Kovac, who has said there will be changes to his starting line-up.
With Robben out, Serge Gnabry is expected to keep his place on the right wing, but Kingsley Coman is now back from a second ankle injury in 2018 and pushing for a place after proving his form off the bench with Bayern’s third goal in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Ajax.
Likewise, Mats Hummels is pushing for a place at centre-back and could replace Jerome Boateng, who gave away a penalty in the draw with Ajax in Amsterdam.
Kovac also played down his difference of opinion with sports director Hasan Salihamidzic over the performance in Amsterdam when Bayern conceded three second-half goals.
“Differences are normal, those who are married know that there are differences of opinion in a marriage,” said Kovac with a grin.