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Kovac may put Muller in the corner if he picks Coutinho at number 10

Both men featured against Red Star Belgrade but Kovac now has a selection dilemma.

Thomas Muller scored from the bench against Red Star Belgrade (Martin Rickett/PA)
Thomas Muller scored from the bench against Red Star Belgrade (Martin Rickett/PA)

By PA Sport Staff

Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac has ruled out the possibility of fielding both Philippe Coutinho and Thomas Muller as his side prepare to take on Cologne.

Coutinho returned to fitness in time for Bayern’s 3-0 Champions League victory over Red Star Belgrade before being replaced by Muller in the 83rd minute.

Muller made an almost instant impact by scoring in the first minute of stoppage time, but Kovac does not intend to play the attacking midfielders in tandem.

“Muller and Coutinho together in the 10 role would be too attacking. We need a good balance,” he said at a pre-match press conference.

“Never say never, but right now I’d lower the probability.”

Unbeaten this season in the Bundesliga, Kovac reported that his squad were raring to return after their midweek exertions.

“Of course we’ve had that game but Saturday will come down to the mental aspect,” he said.

“We absolutely want to win, that’s hugely important for us, but my players are fit and ready.

“Our opponents in the Bundesliga always give their all and we’ll be challenged from the first minute, but we want to win and remain at the top end of the table.”

Kovac could have a handful of injury worries, however.

“Josh (Kimmich) went over his ankle but everything looks OK,” he said.

“Lucas (Hernandez) has a problem with his ankle too and Kingsley (Coman) has a sore neck, so we’ll have to see how they do.”

Cologne manager Achim Beierlorzer is not resigned to defeat as his side anticipate their stiffest challenge since winning promotion from the second tier.

The Billy Goats have endured a tricky initiation in the Bundesliga, winning only one game thus far and losing three.

They now face the reigning champions as they hover just two points from the bottom of the table.

“If it’s about damage limitation, then I’m the wrong man to speak to,” Beierlorzer said at a pre-match press conference.

“That’s not my thing. Naturally, it will be a challenge. But we want to get something from the game.

“We’ve got to be brave on Saturday and invest everything. We’ve got to be active and not passive.”

Belgian midfielder Birger Verstraete will miss the fixture after undergoing a minor operation to remove a cyst from his meniscus.

“We’ll have to replace Verstraete,” said Beierlorzer.

“We have other defensive midfielders in the squad and there are other options. What is clear is that a place in the team is open.”

Spanish centre back Jorge Mere is yet to gain a regular slot in Beierlorzer’s starting XI and remains an unlikely inclusion.

“We’re not deciding against someone, instead we’re deciding on others.

“Seb Bornauw and Rafael Czichos have been a tick better of late, in my opinion.”

German striker Simon Terodde is a consideration, with Beierlorzer saying: “When he’s needed, then he’s there. Whether from the start or off the bench.

“He thinks about the team and gives it his all.”

PA

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