Philippe Coutinho could return from injury as Barcelona take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League – 13 months on from when he helped the German club to a notorious 8-2 victory
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- 13:38, 14 Sep 2021
Barcelona's blockbuster clash with Bayern Munich is the pick of the midweek Champions League games – and it could be a hugely-significant fixture for Philippe Coutinho.
The Brazilian playmaker is searching for redemption on many levels as his former side comes calling to Camp Nou over nine months on from his last competitive appearance.
Coutinho, 29, has undergone two knee surgeries since suffering a ruptured meniscus against Eibar last December.
At the time, he had just three goals to his name for the season and, in many ways, his last meaningful contribution with the ball at his feet came not for Barcelona, but for Bayern.
Philippe Coutinho is available to face Bayern Munich after nine months on the sidelines
In a curious twist of fate, Coutinho enjoyed what was by far his most-productive season since leaving Liverpool with Barca's continental rivals rather than the Catalans themselves.
The £142million attacking midfielder scored 11 goals and contributed nine assists in 38 appearances for the Bavarian giants, helping them clinch a historic treble.
To rub salt in Barcelona's wounds, Coutinho also scored twice and assisted once to help inflict one of the darkest days in the club's history: the notorious 8-2 defeat in the Champions League quarter-finals in August last year.
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Despite their success with Coutinho in the side, Bayern passed up the chance to sign him permanently for £70million in the summer of 2020.
Therefore, weeks after crushing Barcelona, he returned to Spain to continue pocketing his near-£400,000 wages after the club were unable to find a new buyer or loan destination.
It was an incredible situation which epitomised football at its most ridiculous – and one which continues to leaves a sour taste in Barca fans' mouths.
Philippe Coutinho scored twice and assisted once for Bayern Munich against Barcelona
A player of precocious technical ability, the Rio de Janeiro native produced many a magical moment for Liverpool, but his iconic goals and assists for Barcelona – totalling 37 in 90 appearances – have been few and far between.
The memory of the 8-2 defeat lingers like a heavy cloud over Camp Nou and Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman was forced to address it in his pre-match press conference.
"Of course they were hurt in that defeat, you can't forget that, we can't change it," said Koeman.
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Coutinho can rectify the "hurt" he inflicted on his own fans as Barcelona take on Bayern once again on Tuesday night.
Fit enough to make the bench against Getafe before the international break, he is in contention to make his long-awaited return from injury in the opening game of Champions League Group E.
"Coutinho has been out for a long time but is improving," said Koeman. "He needs playing time, it's important for him."
Ronald Koeman will look to Philippe Coutinho as a leader in his squad on his return from injury
Coutinho's return has come just in time for Barcelona, with forwards Martin Braithwaite, Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati and Sergio Aguero unavailable to face the Bundesliga champions.
As he regains fitness, he must prove he is still capable of the attacking output he produced while on loan at the Allianz Arena.
And while Coutinho still has a long way to go to justify his price tag, Koeman will look to the club's record signing to step up in their first Champions League game since Lionel Messi's departure.
Can Philippe Coutinho make a success of his Barcelona spell? Comment below.
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