BERLIN: Either Ivan Perisic or Philippe Coutinho is set to start for Bayern Munich in Saturday’s Champions League clash against injury-hit Chelsea with the Germans’ head coach Hansi Flick demanding full focus despite a comfortable cushion.
Bayern host Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at the Allianz Arena in the last 16, return leg holding a 3-0 advantage after routing the Blues at Stamford Bridge last February before the competition was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bayern face a depleted Chelsea side missing captain Cesar Azpilicueta, plus wingers Christian Pulisic and Pedro, who were injured in Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
With Kingsley Coman out injured, Flick is mulling starting Brazilian Coutinho, on loan from Barcelona, or Croatia winger Perisic, loaned by Inter Milan, on the wing.
“Perisic is a little more dynamic in attack, but Coutinho is better on the ball and can play in more positions, such as a No.10 off (Robert) Lewandowski,” said Flick, saying he has yet to decide.
Bayern striker Lewandowski, who scored in the first leg in London, has 51 goals this season and is the Champions League’s top scorer with 11 goals in six games.
Former Liverpool star Coutinho is set to return to Barcelona once his one-year loan deal expires when Bayern’s Champions League campaign ends, but is in form after recovering from an ankle injury.
“Philippe is currently in very good shape. I like him very much as a footballer and a person, so I am happy that he is now fit and physically at a high level,” said Flick.
“He always scores and can give the decisive pass. I like the way he interprets football.”
The hosts are overwhelming favourites to reach the quarterfinals, where they would face Barcelona or Napoli in Lisbon next Friday, but Flick is demanding his side give their all against Chelsea.
“It’s about having respect, we have seen how Chelsea performed after the restart,” Flick added with the Blues having won nine of their 12 games.
“We also need to focus on our own strengths,” he added.
Bayern are on a 12-match winning streak, including last Friday’s 1-0 friendly win over Marseille. – AFP