It's a case of Philippe Coutinho or Thomas Müller in the Bayern Munich team this season, according to head coach Niko Kovac. - © imago images/Jan Huebner
It's a case of Philippe Coutinho or Thomas Müller in the Bayern Munich team this season, according to head coach Niko Kovac. - © imago images/Jan Huebner
bundesliga

"Philippe Coutinho and Thomas Müller in the same Bayern Munich team would be too attacking" – Niko Kovac

Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac has given a fascinating insight into his strategic thinking by saying he is unlikely to field attacking midfielders Philippe Coutinho and Thomas Müller in the same line-up.

Speaking ahead of his side's Matchday 5 encounter with Cologne, the 47-year-old was asked whether the two players, both preferring a central attacking playmaker role, could play in the same team.

"That would be too attacking," he replied. "Both players have their own qualities getting forward, but we need a good balance. I haven't ruled it out altogether, but at the moment it's not an option."

Müller staked his claim for a spot in the starting line-up against Cologne with his first goal of the season for Bayern against Red Star Belgrade. - 2019 Getty Images

With Bayern tending to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Robert Lewandowski up front and two wingers out wide – normally Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry – playing both Müller and Coutinho might indeed make Bayern too top-heavy.

Kovac has alternated between the two in his starting line-ups for the last four games, with Coutinho starting – and impressing – in Bayern's 3-0 UEFA Champions League triumph over Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday.

Müller came off the bench to open his account for the season with the team's third goal in that game and also has three Bundesliga assists to his name already this term.

All of which provides Kovac with a selection headache, especially as Coutinho is still working his way back to full fitness after only featuring sparingly at Barcelona.

Watch: Coutinho settling in at Bayern

"Philippe showed what he's capable of with the ball [against Red Star]," said Kovac.

"He's able to recognise certain situations and his ability on the ball is sensational. His teammates are increasingly looking for him and his understanding with them is also getting better and better. Yesterday he showed what he can do and he'll underline that over the coming weeks."

Kovac also offered his support to Manuel Neuer following suggestions that Barcelona and former Borussia Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen should replace him as the first-choice in Germany's national team.

"There's always pressure, both at Bayern and in the national team," he said. "It's easy to forget that Manu made a brilliant save after just three minutes against Northern Ireland. For me, Manuel Neuer is absolutely a No.1 player. That's just the way it is. There's a No.1 and a No.1 b) in the national team. I think that kind of pressure is actually necessary.

Watch: A selection of Neuer's best saves!

"Manuel is a leader and shows with his qualities both on and off the pitch that he's a great player and a great person. He's still got both feet on the ground though. A back-up goalkeeper has a tough life, but Manuel Neuer has earned to be where he is through his impressive displays."

Regardless, with players of the calibre of Neuer, Coutinho and Müller needing to produce the goods every week given the competition for places, spare a thought for Cologne as they travel to the Allianz Arena this weekend.