Niko Kovac has challenged Bayern Munich to match the level of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund but denied having any interest in poaching their rivals' young stars.
Bayern head to Mainz on Saturday ahead of restorative back-to-back wins over Wolfsburg and AEK Athens, Kovac's position having come under scrutiny after they went four games without a win in all competitions heading into the October international break.
The champions' slump was made all the more damaging by Dortmund's flying form under Lucien Favre.
After eight games, BVB occupy top spot on 20 points thanks to six wins and pair of draws – three points above nearest rivals Borussia Monchengladbach and Werder Bremen and four better off than Bayern in fourth.
It means the anticipation surrounding the Klassiker showdown at Signal Iduna Park on November 10 is palpable and Kovac told a news conference: "First of all we have to make sure we win our games to stay close to Dortmund, that's our goal.
"If we can close the gap until then, everything will be all the better.
"What I see now from Dortmund is very good. Not only the results but the way they are playing.
"It's fun to watch them and we have to make sure that we can close that gap and reach that level of play as well, so we have the chance when we play them to use that and overtake them."
Niko #Kovac : "We're obviously heading to Mainz with the intention of winning the match. It will definitely be a tricky game." @Bundesliga_EN #FootballAsItsMeantToBe #FCBayern #MiaSanMia #M05FCB pic.twitter.com/nczuU9msLt — FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) October 26, 2018
The last time Dortmund beat Bayern to Bundesliga glory, claiming back-to-back titles under Jurgen Klopp in 2010-11 and 2011-12, the Bavarian giants responded by buying their star players.
Mischievously, Kovac was asked about the prospect of launching similar raids from January onwards but refused to be drawn.
"Now you're taking the fifth step before the first step," he said. "Dortmund are doing a really good job, I said that already.
"We have a really good squad, unfortunately with two injured players, but we will continue to work with this squad.
"This is the squad we want to be successful with. We cannot talk about what will happen in the new year, anything can happen.
"There are a lot of good players all over the world."
Kovac was also fulsome in his praise for Gladbach, who dismissed his side 3-0 on October 6, but argued teams operate with a more defensive setup against Bayern.
"Everyone wants to score goals - that's the point of football but you have to look at the whole situation in detail," he added.
"I don't want to make any excuse but when teams play against Bayern Munich their tactical approach is different.
"Dortmund and Gladbach are doing a good job right now but when we play teams, their defensive block is usually very different to when they play other team. It makes it very difficult for us."