Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick has sympathy for Philippe Coutinho amid a difficult spell of form and insists it is down to the team to help him.

Coutinho, 27, joined Bayern on loan at the start of the season after struggling to make an impact at Barcelona, but the Brazilian has fared little better in the Bundesliga.

He has made only 12 starts in the league this term and recent speculation suggested Bayern have no plans to trigger their reported €120million purchase option.

Barcelona apparently paid Liverpool €160m (£142m) for Coutinho in January 2018, but it is said they are now willing to take a loss of approximately €70m to get him off their books.

Coutinho was left out of the starting XI for recent Bundesliga matches against Mainz and Schalke, while Flick accepts his display in the narrow 4-3 DFB-Pokal victory over Hoffenheim could have been better.

But the coach is sympathetic, acknowledging it can be challenging for new players to fit into a team such as Bayern's.

"It's not easy - the training sessions of Philippe have been very good lately," Flick told reporters on Friday ahead of the showdown with Bundesliga title rivals RB Leipzig.

"Of course, not everything was great against Hoffenheim, but it wasn't all bad either. I don't think he is 100 percent satisfied with the performance he is currently showing, but he's a player of ours and we have to help him, whatever we do.

"I'm sure he'll help us a lot, so we have to wait and see. In every career there are low points and it is not so easy to fit into such a homogeneous team. He is fit and I am in a positive mood."

Joshua Kimmich recently came in for what many have perceived as criticism from club great Mehmet Scholl due to the German international's eagerness to speak his mind.

Last year, Kimmich was vocal in his defence of Manuel Neuer and urged Bayern to improve after Niko Kovac's sacking, while last month he suggested the club should dip into the transfer market to ease injury worries.

But Flick values such a forthright and open approach, convinced players who lead are not a problem.

"Mehmet and I often exchange ideas, I always find the dialogue good," Flick said. "That is his opinion now, which is often not in line with other people.

"For us, Joshua Kimmich is an important player. He has a key position and I like players who say their opinion and lead. He is on the right track and I am very satisfied with his development."

The time might have come for Chelsea to cash in on one of their longest and most loyal servants.

According to reports, LaLiga giants Barcelona are eager to take winger Willian to Camp Nou before the January transfer window closes on Friday.

The experienced Brazilian has been with Chelsea since 2013, but his contract is due to expire at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY - BARCA WANT WILLIAN

Barcelona will test Chelsea's resolve with a late €23.6million (£20m) offer for Willian, Sky Sports have reported.

The Blaugrana are said to be are "long-term admirers" of the 31-year-old and hope to have him on board for the remainder of their title battle against Real Madrid.

Willian could leave Stamford Bridge on a free at the end of June if Chelsea choose not to cash in now.

Frank Lampard last month said contract talks were ongoing with the former Shakhtar Donetsk attacker, but he has not yet agreed a new deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- News of Barca's approach comes amid suggestions they have had an eye-watering €100m (£85m) offer for Richarlison rejected by Everton, rumours the Mirror indicates have been laughed off at Goodison Park.

- Chelsea, however, could be preparing their Willian replacement. According to the Daily Mail, the Premier League top-four aspirants are looking to sign 32-year-old Napoli forward Dries Mertens for a cut-price £6m fee.

- Barca, meanwhile, are trying to find a new home for Philippe Coutinho after learning Bayern Munich will not activate their €120m option to buy the on-loan playmaker, say Catalunya Radio.

- England international Danny Rose will spend the remainder of the season at Newcastle United after Tottenham accepted a £2m loan fee for the left-back, claim the Guardian.

- Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund must improve their bid from €22m to €30m to convince Serie A champions Juventus to part with midfielder Emre Can, claim CalcioMercato.

Have Tottenham finally found an alternative to Harry Kane?

According to reports, Spurs are in talks to sign Real Sociedad's Willian Jose with just over a week to go until the transfer window closes.

But it could take in excess of £50million to finally end their search for a second out-and-out striker.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS TO DIG DEEP FOR SOCIEDAD STRIKER

Krzysztof Piatek, Islam Slimani and Fernando Llorente have all been linked but Tottenham have now set their sights on 28-year-old Willian Jose, reports the Guardian.

The Brazilian was left out of his side's Copa del Rey clash with Espanyol on Wednesday and could now be headed for north London.

Talks are underway, the Guardian states, although Spurs could be forced to contemplate meeting Willian Jose's €70million (£59m) release clause as Sociedad seek adequate compensation.

The one-time Real Madrid man has scored eight LaLiga goals this term after reaching double figures in each of the previous three seasons.

 

ROUND-UP

- Dani Ceballos has asked Real Madrid to terminate his Arsenal loan and find him a move elsewhere, according to Spanish radio station Cadena SER.

- The Gunners are set to suffer another blow as Ligue 1 outfit Lyon prepare to confirm the €25million signing of rumoured Atletico Madrid target Bruno Guimaraes, reports L'Equipe.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich will allow Philippe Coutinho to return to Barcelona at the end of his loan spell if, as desired, the Bundesliga giants land Leroy Sane and Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz, reports Bild.

- After sealing a deal for Reinier Jesus, Madrid could return to raid Flamengo for 19-year-old forward Lincoln, says Mundo Deportivo.

- Leicester City plan to bolster their Champions League ambitions by splashing £15million on Southampton centre-back Jannik Vestergaard, according to The Sun.

- Serie A side Milan have submitted an 18-month loan offer for Manchester City-linked Florentino Luis, claims CalcioMercato. The 20-year-old defensive midfielder plays for Benfica.

Kevin De Bruyne's barnstorming performance for Manchester City in Sunday's 3-0 win over Arsenal unsurprisingly secures him the starring role in FIFA Ultimate Team's latest Team of the Week.

De Bruyne produced a masterclass at Emirates Stadium, scoring twice and creating another for Raheem Sterling.

The Belgian's driving runs from midfield were a constant feature, while each of his goals were truly quality efforts. He almost got a third, too, only for a wonderful save to help another thunderous strike onto the post.

De Bruyne is the star man in an impressive attacking unit in this week's FIFA 20 squad, with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah leading the line after netting a brace in the Reds' 2-0 victory over Watford.

Salah is joined in attack by Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho following fine displays against Mainz and RB Leipzig, collecting two goals and two assists across those games.

Philippe Coutinho is the other standout attacking name in the starting XI, while Jan Vertonghen offers a strong option at the back.

Below, we take a look at the latest squad in full.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Benjamin Lecomte (Monaco) - 86

CB: Raul Albiol (Villarreal) – 85

LB: Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham) – 88

LB: Theo Hernandez (Milan) – 84

RM: Pizzi (Benfica) – 86

CM: Jose Campana (Levante) – 83

CM: Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain) – 83

LW: Phillipe Coutinho (Bayern Munich) – 88

CAM: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – 94

ST: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 92

LF: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) – 86

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Hendrik van Crombrugge (Anderlecht) – 79

LB: Lucas Olaza (Celta Vigo) – 81

CM: Dan Gosling (Bournemouth) – 81

CM: Borja Valero (Inter) – 82

LW: Gervinho (Parma) – 82

RW: Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord) – 83

ST: Youssef El Arabi (Olympiacos) – 81

RESERVES

LWB: Pascal Schurpf (Luzern) – 75

CAM: Omar Govea (Zulte Waregem) – 79

ST: Florian Niederlechner (Augsburg) – 80

ST: Jordan Rhodes (Sheffield Wednesday) – 78

ST: Conor Chaplin (Barnsley) – 74

Bayern Munich interim head coach Hansi Flick hailed an "amazing" display by Philippe Coutinho during Saturday's 6-1 rout of Werder Bremen.

Milot Rashica gave the visitors a deserved lead with a fabulous 24th-minute solo goal but Bayern took control of the contest after the irresistible Coutinho equalised in the 45th minute.

The on-loan Barcelona star set up Robert Lewandowski to give Flick's men a half-time lead, and he lobbed Jiri Pavlenka and rifled in from the edge of the penalty area either side of another assist for substitute Thomas Muller.

Bundesliga top scorer Lewandowski finished with a double of his own but Coutinho's performance commanded the post-match attention.

"I think everyone in the stadium enjoyed his performance," Flick told a news conference after his players bounced back emphatically from back-to-back defeats in the league.

"It made me especially happy that the whole team celebrated together with him and shared his happiness from the heart.

"He scored three goals and assisted twice. This is amazing. We are very happy with his performance."

Lewandowski's link-up with Coutinho put Bremen to the sword and threatened an even greater margin of victory.

"That was his game today, with the ball, with the movement," the Poland striker told Bayern's official website.

"How he did it was outstanding. We need such a player. I am very pleased that he showed how good he is and what great potential he has."

Bayern are back in action with a trip to high-flying Freiburg on Wednesday.

Philippe Coutinho turned in a dazzling display as Bayern Munich came from behind to beat Werder Bremen 6-1 in the Bundesliga.

On-loan Barcelona playmaker Coutinho scored a hat-trick and laid on another for Robert Lewandowski, who continued his prolific campaign with a brace.

Bayern headed into the match on the back of consecutive league losses to Bayern Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach and Bremen deservedly led at the Allianz Arena through a fabulous Milot Rashica strike.

But those struggles felt a lifetime ago by the time Coutinho set up substitute Thomas Muller for the fifth, while the former completed the rout with a brilliant finish from the edge of the area.

Rashica spurned his first opening of the contest, streaking clear of the Bayern defence only to lose his footing in the penalty area, but he atoned in the 24th minute - spinning into space on halfway and driving at Jerome Boateng to lash in a stunning long-range strike.

Bremen goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka sharply denied Lewandowski and Coutinho, but the two attackers would decisively turn the game on the stroke of half-time.

Coutinho tapped in at the far post from Serge Gnabry's low cross after Josh Kimmich's chipped pass opened Bremen up.

Theodor Gebre Selassie was substituted after injuring his knee in the process of trying to stop the equaliser and the right-hand side of the visitors' defence was exposed as Coutinho played in Lewandowski to equalise in stoppage time.

Bremen retained their threat on the break, with the livewire Rashica slicing wide after tearing at the Bayern defence, yet Coutinho put daylight between the teams after the hour, lobbing a bouncing ball from David Alaba over the helpless Pavlenka.

Muller came on for Leon Goretzka with 20 minutes to play and his old alliance with Lewandowski yielded number four, the Poland star darting on to a chipped return pass for his 18th Bundesliga goal of the season.

Muller then got in on the act himself with a close-range finish – Coutinho the provider before claiming the matchball with a trademark curling effort that arced beyond the diving Pavlenka to find the net via the upright.

Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick is confident Philippe Coutinho is "on the right track" after getting on the scoresheet in the midweek win over Tottenham.

Coutinho's impact at the Allianz Arena has been questioned since arriving on loan from Barcelona at the start of the season.

The Brazil international has scored four goals and provided five assists in 19 games for Bayern, who are seventh in the Bundesliga.

One of those goals came in Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League victory against Tottenham, with Coutinho earning praise from stand-in boss Flick for his display.

"He played very well against Tottenham. It was important for him to do so," Flick said at his pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's home clash with Werder Bremen.

"He is in a very good way and is on the right track. It's not easy to come to Germany and get a foothold straight away. He will show his quality again."

Coutinho could be used on the left wing against Bremen due to the absence of Kingsley Coman, who has been ruled out with a knee injury.

Alphonso Davies is also in contention to play in that position, but Flick is keeping his options open.

Asked whether Coutinho is in line to start, he said: "We will see.

"I have been very satisfied with Alphonso. He has done very well defensively. His pace makes him an asset for us at the back. 

"He is also very strong on the ball. I really like his development."

Bayern are also without Javi Martinez, Corentin Tolisso, Jann-Fiete Arp, Lucas Hernandez, Niklas Sule and Michael Cuisance for the visit of Bremen.

The reigning Bundesliga champions are seven points adrift of leaders Borussia Monchengladbach and Flick has acknowledged his side cannot afford another off day this weekend.

"We need to approach the game with focus. They can surprise us if we're not at 100 per cent," he said.

"We want to end the year with three wins. It's not easy, but that's the target we have set ourselves. Not everything is perfect. You can never achieve perfection.

"We have to work better together, put pressure on the opponent early on. We have a lot of possession, but it is important to avoid losing the ball in dangerous areas."

Kingsley Coman faces another injury lay-off after sustaining a capsule tear and pulled tendon in his left knee during Bayern Munich's 3-1 win over Tottenham on Wednesday.

Coman was replaced just prior to the half-hour of the Champions League encounter at Allianz Arena after appearing to suffer a hyperextension while attempting to chase down an errant pass midweek.

The France international had earlier opened the scoring and appeared exasperated with his bad luck as he received treatment on the touchline.

Coman has a history of ankle problems and suffered lateral collateral ligament damage in his knee in 2016.

"The diagnosis of club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt late Wednesday evening revealed a capsule tear in the left knee," read a Bayern statement.

"In addition, Coman has pulled the biceps tendon and compressed the knee joint. The knee is immobilised with a splint for some time."

The setback places Coman in doubt for the club's three remaining Bundesliga fixtures before the mid-season break.

Bayern went on to secure victory against a weakened Tottenham team but interim head coach Hansi Flick admitted: "His injury obviously overshadows the win."

Thomas Muller replaced Coman in the 27th minute and restored the home side's advantage on the stroke of half-time, Ryan Sessegnon having equalised for Spurs.

Philippe Coutinho put the seal on a perfect Group B campaign with a classy curling finish after the interval, delighting his coach.

"It's important for him to have such a great feeling of success," Flick said of the Brazilian, who is on loan from LaLiga champions Barcelona.

"Things went well in the first half, the second half was even better. It was important for him he scored a goal today.

"I'm happy with the way we played. We kept trying to break our opponents down, we created chances that we didn't take, but still won 3-1, deservedly."

The result sealed a Champions League record for Bayern, who were already assured of finishing above second-placed Spurs.

The Bavarians' six victories and +19 goal difference cemented their status as the best group winners in the competition's history.

Bayern Munich completed a perfect Group B campaign with a 3-1 win over a weakened Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Both clubs had already confirmed their places in the knockout stage, and several starting XI changes - including six made by Jose Mourinho - led to an open affair.

Bayern were superior for long periods after Kingsley Coman's early opener, although Ryan Sessegnon marked his full Tottenham debut with the equaliser six minutes later.

Thomas Muller replaced an injured Coman and restored Bayern's advantage on the stroke of half-time before Phillipe Coutinho curled the Bundesliga side out of sight, the goal confirming a second defeat for Mourinho in charge of pool runners-up Spurs.

Tottenham were given two warnings before Coman cushioned Serge Gnabry's deflected pass and stroked the 14th-minute opener into the bottom-right corner.

Spurs quickly responded through Sessegnon. The 19-year-old rifled past Manuel Neuer at the near post after Jerome Boateng turned the ball into his path and, in the process, became Tottenham's youngest Champions League goalscorer.

But after losing Coman to a suspected hyperextension of his left knee, Bayern's advantage was restored by replacement Muller, making amends following a gilt-edged Thiago Alcantara miss on the rebound from a Gnabry shot against the post.

Muller was perfectly placed to convert the loose ball in the 45th minute after the upright denied Alphonso Davies at close range.

There was time left in a breathless first half for Coutinho to unleash a long-range shot that Gazzaniga tipped against the crossbar.

The Brazilian would not be denied in the 64th minute, his curling finish from the edge of the area giving the besieged Tottenham goalkeeper no chance.

Son Heung-min appeared off the bench for Spurs but the Premier League outfit were largely toothless in the absence of the rested Harry Kane as they slumped to a second loss in three games in all competitions.

On-loan star Philippe Coutinho said he would "love" to stay at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Coutinho is on a season-long loan deal from LaLiga holders Barcelona, however, the Brazilian is yet to convince in Bavaria.

Since swapping Camp Nou for Allianz Arena, Coutinho has scored three goals in 18 appearances for Bayern.

"I feel really good," said Coutinho. "I'm planning to stay here for a year and focus on the here and now.

"But if everything fits, then I'd love to stay."

Coutinho came off the bench in Bayern's shock Bundesliga loss at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.

It was Hansi Flick's first defeat since replacing Niko Kovac as head coach until the end of the year.

"We understand his way of training and playing well," Coutinho added. "Things are going well because of that.

"Flick makes everyone feel important and we're happy, but we know there's a lot of work to do."

Bayern – fourth in the Bundesliga and four points adrift of leaders Borussia Monchengladbach – face the German pacesetters on Saturday.

Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick called for patience with Philippe Coutinho, saying the attacker needed to be given more time.

Coutinho arrived at the Bundesliga giants on loan from Barcelona in August, but his impact has been questioned.

The Brazilian, 27, has scored three goals and provided five assists in 17 games for Bayern, who are fourth in the Bundesliga.

But Flick, who will remain as coach until at least the end of the year, said Coutinho deserved more chances.

"Sometimes I think it's good to give someone a little time," he told a news conference on Friday.

"[Coutinho] hasn't been here that long. He didn't have a full pre-season and came to us without much preparation. He went through a change of coach. That's why you just have to give him time.

"He's done well. He scored a goal in Dusseldorf and assisted another. In Belgrade, he assisted two goals.

"In the end, his assists add to his statistics and that's why I'm already satisfied with him."

Bayern host Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Bayern Munich maintained their 100 per cent record under Hansi Flick and closed the gap on Bundesliga leaders Borussia Monchengladbach to one point with a dominant 4-0 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf.

The champions had suffered a shocking 5-1 defeat in their last away game three weeks ago - a result that brought an end to Niko Kovac's tenure as head coach - but they were on the right side of a thumping victory on this occasion.

Goals from Benjamin Pavard, Corentin Tolisso and Serge Gnabry put the game beyond Dusseldorf inside 34 minutes and ensured a superb first-half performance from Bayern was suitably rewarded.

With three points secured, the Bavarians did not hit the same heights after the interval but Philippe Coutinho added a fourth goal and they have now won each of their three games under interim coach Flick, scoring 10 and conceding none.

The only surprise was Robert Lewandowski's failure to score for the first time this season in the Bundesliga, the striker having managed 16 goals in Bayern's first 11 games.

Flick's men were ahead inside 11 minutes. A short corner from Thomas Muller found Joshua Kimmich all alone and his low cross towards Pavard found its way into the net, with uncertainty over whether the full-back or Dusseldorf's Alfredo Morales had got a touch.

Both Lewandowski and Coutinho went close before a dismal error from Dusseldorf goalkeeper Zack Steffen enabled the visitors to score a second. Under little pressure, Steffen passed the ball straight to Muller and Dusseldorf's scrambling defenders were unable to recover as Gnabry's cross was converted by Tolisso.

The game was effectively ended as a contest when Gnabry scored himself, after the influential Muller had turned Pavard's low cross into his path.

After the hosts' best spell of the game, during which Rouwen Hennings spurned a great opportunity, Lewandowksi diverted an effort wide at the near post and then saw a powerful header tipped away by Steffen.

The Poland forward did claim an assist with 20 minutes remaining, though, as he beat his man on the left of the area and clipped in a cross that narrowly evaded Muller but left Coutinho with a tap-in.

 

What does it mean? Flick making strong case to keep control

Speaking during the international break, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirmed Flick would remain in charge "at least until Christmas and possibly beyond". The response of the club's players to his appointment suggests there is no need to rush the search for a full-time successor to Kovac. Put simply, Bayern look like Bayern once again and Gladbach's 2-0 loss at Union Berlin means they are now right on the leaders’ heels.

Magnificent Muller on song

Having been in and out of Bayern's starting XI under Kovac this season, Muller has started all three games under Flick and was integral to this win. The experienced forward was involved in all four goals, while a glorious first-half flick to Lewandowski summed up his confident display.

Steffen shocker punished

Steffen will not want to see replays of Bayern's second goal. His sloppy pass put Dusseldorf in all sorts of trouble and the visitors were in no mood to pass up such a golden chance.

What's next?

Bayern will look to maintain their momentum under Flick when they face Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League on Tuesday. Their next league game is at home to Bayer Leverkusen next Saturday, the same day Dusseldorf travel to Hoffenheim.

Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac has lamented the lack of time coaches are given to implement their ideas at a football club.

Despite leading Bayern to Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal success last season, Kovac oversaw a disappointing round-of-16 exit in the Champions League and his position has come under scrutiny in the early stages of the 2019-20 campaign.

The Bavarian giants have won just five of their nine league games and sit a point behind Borussia Monchengladbach at the Bundesliga summit, leading to speculation that Jose Mourinho has been lined up as a replacement for Kovac.

Speaking ahead of his side's DFB-Pokal second-round tie with Bochum on Tuesday, Kovac expressed his frustration at the lack of continuity in coaching and pointed to Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool as a positive example of what can happen if a coach is given time.

"You need time," he told a media conference. "You have to get to know your colleagues and the procedures, but that does not seem to apply to coaches. It's not about me, but about this issue in general.

"Klopp is now at Liverpool for four years, so we talk about continuity. Apparently, it no longer exists in football."

Kovac is likely to make changes for the visit to Bochum but would not be drawn on whether Philippe Coutinho would be rested.

Coutinho has impressed following his loan move from Barcelona, but Kovac is not happy with the attacking midfielder playing a combined 150 minutes in Brazil's friendlies against Senegal and Nigeria earlier this month.

"I am very satisfied with him," he said. "He always puts himself in the service of the team. Maybe he should not play so much every time he's with the national team. 

"The burden of flying and playing is quite high so we have to try to talk to the national coach."

Kovac confirmed that Javi Martinez is the only injury absentee for the clash at the Ruhrstadion, with Leon Goretzka expected to make his first start since the DFL-Supercup defeat to Borussia Dortmund on August 3.

Philippe Coutinho plays as if he is "dancing with the ball" and fans of Bayern Munich and Paderborn would have enjoyed his display in Saturday's Bundesliga encounter, said head coach Niko Kovac.

Midfield playmaker Coutinho, on a season-long loan from LaLiga champions Barcelona, was influential as Bayern defeated Paderborn 3-2, assisting Serge Gnabry's opener and scoring when his team-mate returned the favour.

Coutinho has impressed early on in his Bayern career and Kovac was full of praise for his showing at the Benteler-Arena.

"He [Coutinho] speaks for himself. At the end of the day, everyone who was at the stadium today, everyone who saw today's game, was able to see once again the skills that he possesses, what kind of qualities he has with the ball," Kovac said. 

"At times it really looks like he's dancing with the ball, you have to say it like that. He knows exactly what to do when, how and where with the ball. 

"The first goal he assists magnificently, but immediately after the pass he sprints into the box because he also wants to score.

"And for his goal, the combination was the other way around. Serge [Gnabry] assists him after a superb pass. That's individual quality. 

"He will definitely help us even more, he's already contributing well, he's integrated and happy here. 

"And when a player from South America, from Brazil, is happy, with that kind of quality, you can see how fantastic that is. 

"No matter whether you're a Paderborn, Bayern or any other supporter, you have enjoyed [his performance]."

Bayern were coasting at 2-0 after Coutinho's goal in the 55th minute but efforts from Kai Proger and Jamilu Collins either side of Robert Lewandowski's strike ensured a nervy ending.

"We made the game difficult for ourselves," Kovac admitted. "We could've decided the match during the first half. 

"In my opinion we had to decide it. Second half, going into it with a 1-0 lead, even when it's 2-0 or 2-1, that's always a small advantage. 

"We brought them back into the match, we didn't play the way I wanted in the second half, but I'm satisfied with the result. 

"With the way we played, obviously I'm not satisfied. Therefore, there's not much more to be added."

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