Coutinho happy to play with Muller as Brazilian seeks to replay Bayern’s faith

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Two proven performers rarely graced the same side under Niko Kovac, but interim boss Hansi Flick has sought to combine their strengths in his XI

Philippe Coutinho is happy to be playing alongside Thomas Muller, rather than instead of, with Bayern Munich’s interim boss Hansi Flick opting to use two creative influences in tandem.

The arrival of a Brazilian playmaker at the Allianz Arena over the summer saw a World Cup winner nudged down the pecking order under Niko Kovac.

Muller’s lack of starts saw transfer talk resurface, with it suggested that the Germany international could seek to end his career-long association with Bayern.

The departure of Kovac has, however, seen Flick introduce a different system, with there space in his plans for both Coutinho and Muller.

The pair played alongside each other in a 4-0 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf, with Coutinho recording his first goal since September.

The South American told TZ of the change in system at Bayern: “I’ve always said I can play with Thomas.

“He’s a great player and someone who’s very important for Bayern. He’s got everything, talent and experience, which makes him an essential part of the team. I’ve got my strengths and he’s got his – the only thing that matters is combining them together for Bayern.”

Coutinho’s outing on Saturday saw him make a first start under Flick, with the Barcelona loanee happy to have earned the trust of his current coach.

He added: “I tried to repay his faith in me.

“At the moment the team is doing really well at implementing what the coach wants. Pressing without the ball is very important to him. We close the opposition down early and in a structured way, which causes them a lot of problems. We didn’t expect it to be so successful so quickly.

“The changes Flick has made are mainly tactical.

“He places a lot of emphasis on compact, coordinated and, at times, high pressing so that the opposition can’t get into their game at all. Obviously it’s up to us players to execute that on the pitch, but from the very start, we understood what he wants from us and how he ticks, both on the pitch and in the changing room. That’s why things are going well and we’re all happy.”

Coutinho has also paid homage to prolific Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski, with the Pole having taken his goal tally for 2019-20 to 23.

“The form he is in right now is incredible,” said Coutinho.

“At some point, a game had to come along in which he didn’t score – but reducing his performance to goals wouldn’t do him justice. I’m of the opinion that Lewy was incredibly important for our victory in Dusseldorf. He locks down the opposing lines of defence, runs as the first player back on defence and penetrates deep, which in possession immediately creates space for others.”