Philippe Coutinho (l.) returned to Bayern Munich training on Thursday following international duty with Brazil. - © imago images / Laci Perenyi
Philippe Coutinho (l.) returned to Bayern Munich training on Thursday following international duty with Brazil. - © imago images / Laci Perenyi
bundesliga

"Need everyone at 100% for four-way title race" – Niko Kovac

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac is expecting Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig to challenge for the Bundesliga title this season, and is sweating on the fitness of Philippe Coutinho ahead of Saturday’s clash with the latter…

Coutinho has been on international duty with Brazil, playing all but 15 minutes of the Selecao’s friendly matches with Colombia and Peru in the USA, and Kovac could be tempted to bring the Barcelona-owned playmaker off the bench at the Red Bull Arena.

“We’ll have to wait on Coutinho’s condition when he returns, the we’ll talk to him,” the Bayern coach explained at his pre-match press conference. “It’s important that he had two games with Brazil, but of course, such a journey is exhausting and in Thomas [Müller], we have somebody who played very well in the last game.”

Watch: Highlights on Coutinho's first start -  a 6-1 thrashing of Mainz before the international break.

Coutinho started Bayern’s 6-1 thrashing of Mainz on Matchday 3, making way for Müller – who assisted Robert Lewandowski’s goal for 5-1 – in the 67th minute. Fellow final third operators Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry were on target for France and Germany respectively in recent days, and Kovac is reluctant to give away his starting line-ups.

“Everyone has to be at 100 percent,” he said. “That’s true for Bayern and also our opponents. You can’t play at 80 or 90 percent.

“It’s true that Leipzig have come on a lot. It’s getting close. I hope we’ll be the lucky ones. As well as Leipzig, Dortmund and Leverkusen will challenge. The four of us will contest everything. We know to expect a close race.”