Friday 18 January 2019

Klopp glad Phil's back

Liverpool boss believes Brazilian's return 'good for us and good for him'

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho is closing in on a return to Liverpool's Premier League starting line-up after coming through their FA Cup win at Plymouth unscathed.

Coutinho played over an hour of Wednesday night's 1-0 third-round replay victory at Home Park, his first start since damaging ankle ligaments at the end of November.

The Brazilian playmaker eased his way back by making half-hour substitute appearances in the League Cup semi-final defeat at Southampton and the Premier League draw at Manchester United.

But Coutinho could now start Liverpool's home league game with Swansea tomorrow after setting up the Lucas Leiva header which secured the Reds safe passage to the fourth round of the FA Cup and a home tie against Wolves.

"(He) was good," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said of the influential Coutinho. "I'm happy, really happy.

"It was very important for us. I thought 60-65 minutes was the perfect intensity for (Wednesday).

"It was good for him and good for us."

Only teenage full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and Divock Origi - who fluffed a penalty to ease late Liverpool nerves - remained from the side which drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

However, it looked a far more potent side than the one League Two Plymouth had managed to hold at Anfield 10 days earlier, with Coutinho and Origi joined in attack by Daniel Sturridge.


But Klopp bristled at the suggestion that he had named a stronger team than for the original tie, and insisted squad rotation was essential with Liverpool having seven games in 20 days.

"I named, again, the team I could name. That's what I always do," Klopp said.

"Only you (the media) judge it as stronger or weaker, I don't do this. It's all about who is available.

"We play Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Tuesday.

"If I would always let the same players play, I would be a real idiot. I don't do it.

"So, that was the team for (Wednesday). We will see who we can line up on Saturday."

Meanwhile, former Reds captain Steven Gerrard has urged Daniel Sturridge to prove he can be a Liverpool hero in a team "on the verge of something really big".

Gerrard believes there is a key role in Klopp's plans for his former team-mate and challenged him to show patience.

Sturridge has started just five Premier League matches this season, and has shown little of the form that made him such a threat to defences when paired with Luis Suarez, before the Uruguayan left for Barcelona two and a half years ago.

He played from the first whistle against Plymouth on Wednesday, before being subbed off in the 76th minute.

Sturridge will hope to be regularly selected by new England boss Gareth Southgate, and it was put to Gerrard that limited club action may not help his international chances.

"That's the thing that Daniel's got to assess himself. Only he knows whether he's happy, whether he's frustrated or whether he wants to go somewhere else and challenge himself," Gerrard said.

"But Liverpool aren't going to let him go for cheap. Liverpool need him. He scores goals when he plays, his minutes-to-goals ratio is incredible.

"I'm sure if someone came along with a huge, huge offer and Daniel wanted it there could be a solution there, but as it stands right now Liverpool need Daniel Sturridge and I can't see him going anywhere short term.

"He's capable of world-class moments and performances and I think Liverpool are on the verge of something really big under this manager.

"Maybe he is frustrated from week to week but there's a great chance he could get silverware with Liverpool in the near future.

"If I were him I'd be patient. I think there's good things on the horizon."

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