Berlin – Six months ago it looked highly possible that Niko Kovac would be sacked by Bayern Munich. Fast forward to May and the coach needs a win at RB Leipzig on Saturday to secure the Bundesliga title.
With a four-point advantage over Borussia Dortmund with two to play, Bayern have the luxury of knowing that their destiny is still in their own hands even if they lose at Ralf Rangnick's dangerous side.
Kovac can also look forward to a German Cup final against the same club on on May 25 but it could all have been very different if Bayern's bosses had lost patience after a stuttering start to Kovac's first term in charge.
Dortmund seemed to be running away with the league at the end of last year and Bayern had not convinced in the Champions League group stages either. But rather than panic, both Bayern and Kovac kept the faith and slowly they reeled Dortmund in even if there were bumps along the away.
A poor home defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League last 16 put the pressure back on Kovac and comments from club chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have suggested he is not totally happy with the coach.
This week he defended himself but it shows what high standards Bayern have when anything less than a seventh straight Bundesliga title is viewed as failure.
"I have only ever said that at Bayern you have to deliver," Rummenigge told reporters of Kovac. "It is all about having a winning mentality at Bayern. That is necessary."
Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will hope to be involved in Leipzig as time ticks down before their departures from Bayern at the end of the season.
Fellow injury-prone player Manuel Neuer hopes to return in goal but Javi Martinez, the midfield workhorse so key to Bayern's play, is a doubt with a leg injury
"I have no idea if I will be fit for Saturday," the Spanish international told Bild.
Leipzig will be no pushovers despite already wrapping up Champions League qualification. They could still overhaul wilting Dortmund in second.
Striker Timo Werner has been heavily linked in the media with a move to Bayern in the close season while the last home game of the campaign is also special for Rangnick, who reverts to being sporting director when Hoffenheim's Julian Nagelsmann joins as coach in July.
He wants to lay down a marker against Bayern for the Cup final rather than just solely delay their title celebrations for a week.
"We dont want to beat Bayern just to annoy them, we want to do it for ourselves," Rangnick said.
Dortmund, tabletoppers for so long in Lucien Favre's first season in charge, lost and drew their last two games but host Fortuna Dusseldorf hoping for a miracle Bayern collapse.
As it is the penultimate weekend of the season, all games kick off at the same time at 1330 GMT on Saturday except for Eintracht Frankfurt at home to Mainz.
Fourth-placed Frankfurt, Bayern's last home opponents on May 18, have been given special dispensation to play on Sunday at 1600 GMT because of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday.
It could be crucial with the fourth Champions League spot still very much up for grabs after their astonishing 6-1 defeat at fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen last weekend.
At the bottom, Nuremberg and Hanover will be relegated unless they can win at home to sixth-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach and Freiburg respectively. Even then they are both doomed if Stuttgart beat Wolfsburg, although just draw for Stuttgart could keep Nuremberg up for another week.dpa