BERLIN: New loan signings Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho both hope to make their Bundesliga debuts as champions Bayern Munich attempt to reboot a rocky start to the season at Schalke on Saturday.
Perisic and Coutinho, both of whom arrived in Munich on loan this month, will be in the squad for the first time as Bayern look to pick up their first win of the new season against David Wagner’s Schalke.
Coutinho, 27, has been the talk of Germany since Bayern announced his arrival on a one-year loan deal from Barcelona last week.
Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said the Brazilian would provide “a touch of the spectacular”, and hopes the former Liverpool player can sprinkle some much-needed stardust on the German top-flight.
“Coutinho is an absolutely world-class player. We should all be happy that he is in the Bundesliga,” former Bayern and Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann told Sky.
Bayern announced record engagement figures on their social media accounts following Coutinho’s arrival on Monday, but fans may have to wait to see the Brazilian star in action.
Coach Niko Kovac confirmed on Thursday Coutinho was not yet fit enough to play the full 90 minutes, and would start on the bench against Schalke.
“I know a lot of people want us to play him straight away, but everything needs to be right,” said Kovac.
The Croatian coach said his compatriot Perisic had better chances of making a first start for Bayern on Sunday.
“Ivan is an option, also for the starting eleven. He is at a higher level of fitness than Philippe,” said Kovac.
Perisic, 30, joined Bayern on a one-year loan from Inter Milan earlier this month, but was forced to sit out the season opener against Hertha Berlin due to a suspension carried over from Serie A.
That game confirmed a bumpy start to the new season for Bayern, as they were held to a 2-2 draw and immediately slipped two points behind title rivals Dortmund, who had beaten them in the German Supercup two weeks previously.
Buerki returns for Dortmund
Under pressure to pick up three points in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday, Kovac warned his side would have to fight against a new-look Schalke led by former Huddersfield boss Wagner.
“It’s the first home game for the new coach so they will be motivated,” said Kovac.
“Huddersfield were one of the teams we used to study. We can expect good defending, good transitions and aggression this weekend.”
Bayern will be without the injured Leon Goretzka, while Jerome Boateng and Jann-Fiete Arp are absent due to illness.
Dortmund, meanwhile, will welcome back first-choice goalkeeper Roman Buerki when they travel to promoted side Cologne on Friday evening.
Buerki, who missed the first three competitive games of the season with an ankle injury, returns to a team still buzzing from their 5-1 mauling of Augsburg in last week’s league opener.
Yet coach Lucien Favre warned Cologne would be a tougher nut to crack, saying that Friday’s opponents would be “more ready than Augsburg were.”
Two of Germany’s representatives in European competitions will meet on Sunday as RB Leipzig host Eintracht Frankfurt, while last year’s fourth-placed team Bayer Leverkusen hope to build on their opening day win when they visit Fortuna Duesseldorf on Saturday.