Sunday 16 December 2018

Klopp's focus on Hoffenheim - not Coutinho

Liverpool boss has 'nothing to say' on Brazilian ahead of play-off clash

The Liverpool squad are pictured in training at the Wirsol Rhein Neckar Arena in Sinsheim, Germany, ahead of tonight’s Champions League play-off first leg clash with Hoffenheim
The Liverpool squad are pictured in training at the Wirsol Rhein Neckar Arena in Sinsheim, Germany, ahead of tonight’s Champions League play-off first leg clash with Hoffenheim
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp talks tactics with his players ahead of tonight’s clash with Hoffenheim

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has put thoughts of wantaway Philippe Coutinho out of his mind as he concentrates on the vitally-important Champions League play-off against Hoffenheim tonight.

The Brazil international submitted a transfer request on Friday just a couple of hours after club owners Fenway Sports Group issued a statement insisting he would not be sold after two unsuccessful bids from Barcelona.

Coutinho is currently sidelined with a back injury which has delayed his start to the new season - he did not travel with the squad to Germany - and Klopp insists until the 25-year-old is fit again he cannot waste time thinking about him and his position.

"There's nothing to say about it. I really understand everybody is interested in it, but at this moment I'm not thinking about it," he said.

"I will answer questions but I'm not in the car, on the way to this press conference, thinking, 'If they ask this question, what can I say?', because I have to think about the (training) session in a few minutes.


"It was always like this. I work with the players I have, I don't think about the players I don't have at the moment.

"If they're injured, whatever, you cannot change, it's the same situation for me.

"I think I've said everything you can say about it, if you want to ask do, but I have no more answers.

"Nothing has changed over the last few days. Not on one side, not on the other side.

"I'm not sure what you're asking for as he's not available for us at this moment, that's the main issue.

"He cannot play for Liverpool in this moment and how everybody can imagine, that's quite a blow for us.

"We know a few days about it, so we have been able to prepare for this game without him, like we have been able to prepare without Adam Lallana, without Daniel Sturridge."

Coutinho dominated proceedings in Hoffenheim despite being more than 700 miles away on Merseyside.

With just over two weeks remaining of the transfer window Liverpool are adamant he will not be leaving despite suggestions growing of the player's discontent.

Captain Jordan Henderson admits despite his position he is powerless to effect the way Coutinho, who has become an integral part of the team, is thinking.

"It is obviously a difficult situation for Phil. Whatever I say will not help the situation but as players, we are fully focused on the game," he said.

"As players, you expect things in the transfer window to happen and players come and go.

"Of course, if you ask everyone, they want Phil to stay as he is a world class player. I have had conversations with Phil it is private (but) I don't think I can influence the situation.


"I am close to him and I have a lot of respect for him but everything that happens is nothing to do with me."

The Coutinho issue continues to overshadow what is a pivotal week for Klopp's side.

Having finished fourth last season they knew they would have to face a play-off to make the Champions League proper but being drawn against Hoffenheim, who finished fourth in the Bundesliga, presents a difficult task.

Victory in the tie is worth an initial £13million and should they make the group stage Liverpool would expect to receive at least £35m.

Klopp did offer some good news on the fitness of Sturridge but, unfortunately for him, it will not help him in Germany.

"(Sturridge) is in a good way. We had a talk this morning, he is really close, he looked good yesterday," said the Reds boss.

"Two more sessions and he will be available for the weekend."

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