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Niko Kovac Hints Unfit Philippe Coutinho Faces a Wait Before Bayern Munich Debut

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 22, 2019

Bayern Munich's new Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho (R) and head coach Niko Kovac   walk across the pitch during a training session at the team's training ground in Munich, southern Germany on August 20, 2019. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

Philippe Coutinho doesn't appear ready to make his Bayern Munich debut in Saturday's trip to Schalke after manager Niko Kovac said the loan signing from Barcelona doesn't have the necessary fitness.

Kovac spoke at a press conference on Thursday and—in what appeared to be a joint decision between manager and player—said Coutinho agreed he wasn't at the required level:

"He is not quite at the level of fitness he needs to play for 90 minutes. He has said that himself, and we don't want to take any risks. He has only been training for the last two weeks, so he needs to catch up. I know a lot of people want us to play him straight away, but everything has to be right."

Die Roten recently confirmed Coutinho's arrival on a season-long loan from the Camp Nou, with a purchase clause valued at €120 million, per Goal's Chris Burton.

The Brazilian is already settling in to his new surroundings and has trained among his new team-mates at the Allianz Arena:

Bundesliga English @Bundesliga_EN

Excited @FCBayernEN fans got to enjoy their first glimpse of @Phil_Coutinho in training today 👀 The weekend can't come soon enough... ⚽ https://t.co/jRmtoa20oE

Bayern's Bundesliga title defence got off to a stuttered start when they drew 2-2 at home to Hertha Berlin in Week 1.

The agreement to sign Coutinho on temporary terms was confirmed a few days later, and he'll hope to turn the tide back in their favour following an apparent shift in the title-race momentum.

Ivan Perisic is another wide option after he joined the club on loan from Inter Milan in August. Kovac suggested the Croat was more likely to get his first minutes in Bayern colours, per Goal's Ronan Murphy:

Ronan Murphy @swearimnotpaul

Niko Kovac on Perisic: “Ivan is much further along than Coutinho, he has the same level of fitness as the other players. He is an option, maybe even from the beginning.” #FCBayern

Borussia Dortmund have been backed as likely challengers for the German top-flight crown this season following a fruitful summer, and Bayern are already playing catch-up in the standings.

Brazil and Barcelona legend Rivaldo recently suggested that playing alongside five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi can be a hindrance for someone like Coutinho, per Goal:

Goal @goal

Rivaldo: “It's never easy to find your space in a team where Lionel Messi constantly takes all the credit & responsibility. There are few players in the world capable of reaching such a situation & imposing themselves." Is Leo to blame for Coutinho's failings in Barcelona? 🤨 https://t.co/pkYvlfQLGC

Stepping closer to the limelight, as he was in Liverpool, could see Coutinho return to his best in Bavaria. However, a debut at home to Mainz on Saturday, August 31, may be a more realistic target than the Week 2 visit to the Veltins-Arena.