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Monday 22 May 2017

Klopp glad to unleash Coutinho on Swansea

Philippe Coutinho. Photo: Paul Childs/Action Images via Reuters
Philippe Coutinho. Photo: Paul Childs/Action Images via Reuters

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is looking forward to being able to give Philippe Coutinho a first Premier League start since November against Swansea today.

The Brazilian, who suffered ankle ligament damage on November 26, was given 30 minutes against Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend - when he set up Roberto Firmino for a good chance with virtually his first touch - and a further hour in the FA Cup replay win at Plymouth.

Those outings have encouraged Klopp to believe he is now ready for a return to the Reds' starting line-up. "He's had a few minutes in the last two games and I'm really happy. I was happy we could give him 60-something minutes," said Klopp.

"It was really good for him and us to get a rhythm because even Philippe Coutinho cannot be back on the pitch and immediately be 100 per cent. That is not really possible. It is very important for us and I am happy about this. We've not had 150 (pieces) of good news in the last few days but that is one of the best for sure."

The loss of Coutinho and the subsequent departure of Senegal forward Sadio Mane to the African Nations Cup has robbed Liverpool of two of their key attacking options and also put more pressure on Firmino. In the 13 matches he played alongside Coutinho for at least some part of the game before his injury, Firmino scored five goals. In the nine matches he played during his fellow Brazilian's absence he managed just one goal.

But Klopp does not subscribe to the view that Coutinho's absence has affected Firmino. "It helps the whole team when Phil is in and at his best but they like each other and everyone can benefit from Phil's skills," he said. ""They are good friends but they are footballers and don't care (about friendship)."

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