Coutinho expected to spark Bayern Champions League charge

BERLIN (AFP) – As Bayern Munich launch their Champions League campaign against Red Star Belgrade tomorrow (3am Brunei time), Bavarian hopes of reclaiming European club football’s top prize rest to a large extent on the shoulders of Philippe Coutinho.

Following seven semi-final appearances in the last decade, the former Liverpool midfielder has been hailed as the man who can take Bayern the extra step in European football’s flagship competition this season.

Last season’s defeat to Liverpool in the last 16 sparked fears that Bayern’s Champions League aura was fading.

“There are always big expectations at Bayern and of course the Champions League is a goal,” said Coutinho at his unveiling in August. Earlier this month, his Brazil teammate and Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson told German newspaper Bild that Coutinho’s arrival put Bayern among the title favourites this season.

Fellow Bayern midfielder Corentin Tolisso echoed that sentiment in an interview with Sky last month, saying that the loan signings of Coutinho and Croatian winger Ivan Perisic would be decisive for Bayern.

“Before those two arrived, we didn’t necessarily have a team that was capable of winning the treble,” said Tolisso.

“With this team, we can go very far in the Champions League.”