Coutinho could miss Reds' crunch period

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho clutching his foot while lying injured on the pitch after a clash with Sunderland's Didier Ndong. The Brazilian may be ruled out of a crucial period of Liverpool's season.
Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho clutching his foot while lying injured on the pitch after a clash with Sunderland's Didier Ndong. The Brazilian may be ruled out of a crucial period of Liverpool's season.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • It was not overly pretty, nor was it especially rampant by Liverpool's swashbuckling standards, but three points are three points and two late goals finally dispensed with dogged, hard-working, Sunderland 2-0 on Saturday.

However, a more significant moment may have occurred in the 30th minute when Philippe Coutinho was carried off with an ankle injury in the wake of Didier Ndong's hard but fair challenge.

"I don't know how bad it is," shrugged manager Jurgen Klopp. "We all have to wait for the scan."

The 24-year-old midfielder was visibly distressed as he was stretchered off with his right leg in a temporary brace and Klopp accepts he will have to wait to see how the Brazilian recovers in the next few days.

"We have to wait for the scan," the German said. "What we know, it is something with the ankle. He had pain but pain gets better. In the first moment it was very painful but at half time he said it was better. I am quite an optimistic guy so I hope he can train tomorrow."

Despite Klopp's optimism, it is likely Coutinho could face weeks, or months, on the sidelines and will be unavailable for a crucial period.

Liverpool take on Bournemouth, West Ham, Middlesbrough, Everton, Stoke and Manchester City next month. With six goals and six assists in all competitions, Coutinho has shone in a variety of roles including out wide and in midfield.

He is in the Premier League's top five (500+ minutes) in terms of chances created per 90 minutes (3.1), and of that group, only Chelsea's Willian (1.8) has averaged more successful tackles per 90 minutes than the Brazilian (1.5); his role is crucial to Klopp's system.

Coutinho was later followed off the field by compatriot Roberto Firmino (calf) while both Adam Lallana (groin) and Daniel Sturridge (calf) were already ruled out.

Victory over Sunderland maintained Liverpool's unbeaten run, having not suffered defeat in the last 14 games in all competitions.

Klopp's side failed to break down Sunderland in the first half. After the re-start, he ran down the touchline to implore the Kop to sing louder and it had the desired effect.

Divock Origi's 75th-minute finish put Liverpool on the path to a victory confirmed by James Milner's 91st-minute penalty.

"I don't think I have ever played against a more defensive team," said Klopp, whose side remain one point behind leaders Chelsea. "We have a football situation and work on it but I believe in atmosphere - it is a big, big part of the game. Atmosphere makes everything easier, I tried to remind the crowd and they reacted more than brilliant(ly)."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Coutinho could miss Reds' crunch period'. Print Edition | Subscribe