Phillippe Coutinho joined Bayern Munich to revive his club career after an underwhelming one and half seasons at Barcelona and will be looking to get his second start for the Bavarians when they welcome Red Star/Crvena Zvezda to the Allianz Arena in the opening match of Bayern’s 2019/20 Champions League campaign.
The Brazilian has been in the news often since his loan move to Bayern Munich and not for the same reasons as he was at Barcelona. Coutinho’s teammates are always talking about how impressed they are with his talent and skill on the ball, and his coach, Niko Kovac, has spoken admiringly of the man touted to replace Thomas Muller and fill in the slots of the retired Arjen Robben and departed Franck Ribery in the starting line-up.
Coutinho joined Barcelona from Liverpool in a €160m move from Liverpool in the 2017/18 January transfer window and struggled to establish himself in the club. The loan acquisition of Coutinho by Bayern can be said to be a “Galacticos” move seeing how loaded with quality their squad is, and while they can hold their own in the Bundesliga, they will be needing what Coutinho can offer in the Champions League.
Before his move in the January window of the 2017/18 season to Barcelona, Coutinho was included in Liverpool’s Champions League squad and performed brilliantly for the Reds. In five group stage appearances, Coutinho scored five goals and provided two assists. Unfortunately, due to him already representing Liverpool in the Champions League that season, he couldn’t appear for Barcelona until the 2018/19 season where he scored three and assisted three in the Blaugrana’s run-up to the semi-finals.
And many fans are left wondering what could have been in that season, given the form Coutinho was in.
Bayern have not had it smooth in the Champions League since their title triumph in 2013 when they won the treble, even crashing out in the round of 16 last season to eventual winners Liverpool – their earliest exit from the competition since 2010/11. This season, they have brought in Coutinho along with other superstars to help them go further in the competition.
During the press conference before the game yesterday, Kovac was asked about Coutinho and subtly avoided answering. He gave a strong hint though, saying that the Brazilian’s preferred position was the number 10, and that’s where he would play if he did play. This statement by the Bayern coach essentially implies the demise of the 4-3-3 formation in Bayern to accommodate Coutinho’s talents.
Coutinho is able to play on the wings as well but playing in the number 10 role will unleash the side of him that was dimmed at Barcelona, and which we saw at Liverpool where he played behind Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and, for a short while, Mohammed Salah. From the role just behind the strikers, he can pull a lot of strings and orchestrate the game for Bayern, a side to his play greatly admired by his Bayern teammates, especially Lewandowski who heaped praise on him for his ability.
Coutinho will also be looking to give the Bayern fans something more to appreciate, following the welcome he received when he landed in Munich and was presented as a Bayern player. Yesterday in an interview given to Sky Sports via MARCA, Coutinho said that the Bayern fans made him feel at home and that the Bavarians are more of a family than his two previous clubs.
His trademark, Robben-like cut inside and shoot style will be looked forward to by the Bayern fans and the prospect of Coutinho and Lewandowski linking up in the Champions League is wonderful to think of.