Philippe Coutinho says he already feels part of the “family” after forging a potent partnership with Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich.
The defending German champions play three games in eight days, starting at Bundesliga bottom side Paderborn on Saturday before travelling to Spurs in the Champions League on Tuesday and then hosting Hoffenheim in the league.
After failing to fill Andre Iniesta’s huge shoes at Barcelona, Coutinho is rebooting his career on loan this season, claiming his first goal in Munich’s red shirt with a penalty in last Saturday’s 4-0 win over Cologne.
The Brazilian was outstanding and feels “right at home here. I think that’s one of this club’s principles: it’s like a family,” he told Bundesliga.com.
Coutinho says the squad’s strong spirit was summed up when Lewandowski, who was on a hat-trick, handed over penalty duties to allow him to score against Cologne.
“It was certainly a great gesture. Lewy had the chance for a hat-trick, but he gave me the chance to score my first goal and I’m grateful for it,” said Coutinho.
Bayern coach Niko Kovac says the pair’s understanding is improving “from game to game” and also praised Lewandowski’s penalty gesture.
“It’s crucial, it can be the sort of little thing which makes the difference. You saw it with Lewy and Philippe - it’s what we need and what we want.”
With Coutinho calling the shots in midfield, Bayern travel to Paderborn on a roll with Lewandowski, who netted twice against Cologne, scoring in each of his last seven games to claim 11 goals in all competitions.
With just one point in five games since being promoted, Paderborn are unlikely to test Bayern, but Kovac wants full concentration to prepare for Spurs.
Bayern are up to second in the German league table, two points behind RB Leipzig, and Kovac wants to “keep our place or if not, climb” in the coming week.
The pressure is on with five teams, including arch rivals Borussia Dortmund who host Werder Bremen on Saturday, just a point behind.
Kovac said healthy competition – both externally and internally – is keeping Bayern on their toes.
“Everyone wants to play. At the moment, the whole ‘package’ is right, but it only works if we push each other,” added Kovac.
One to watch: Jadon Sancho
The England winger has scored three goals with five assists this season and Dortmund’s attack looked less sharp when he was substituted after scoring in last Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Dortmund need a convincing display at home to Werder Bremen this Saturday after conceding a late goal at Frankfurt.
Club captain Marco Reus was fuming after two more points were dropped.
Director Michael Zorc insisted “no top team plays like that” after a late cross by Frankfurt’s Daichi Kamada forced Thomas Delaney into an own goal.
23 - assists Sancho has produced for Dortmund since the start of 2018/19, putting him ahead of the likes of Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard and Barcelona star Lionel Messi in Europe’s top five leagues.
9 – league goals Lewandowski has scored in just five games this season, leaving him potentially on course to break Gerd Mueller’s phenomenal record of 40 in the 1971/72 season.
14 - shots Frankfurt midfielder Daichi Kamada has created this season with the Japan dynamo set to cause more havoc around the box at Union Berlin on Friday.
Fixtures (all times 1330 GMT unless stated)
Union Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt (18:30)
RB Leipzig v Schalke 04, Hoffenheim v Borussia Moenchengladbach, Mainz 05 v Wolfsburg, Augsburg v Bayer Leverkusen, Paderborn v Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen (16:30)
Fortuna Duesseldorf v Freiburg, Cologne v Hertha Berlin (16:00)