Football: Coutinho set for Liverpool return at Saints, but home team's captain Fonte out again

LONDON (AFP) - Philippe Coutinho is in line to make his comeback from a seven-week injury layoff in Wednesday's League Cup semi-final first leg at Southampton, manager Jurgen Klopp said on Monday.

The Brazil playmaker has not played since sustaining ankle ligament damage in the first half of Liverpool's 2-0 Premier League win at home to Sunderland on Nov 26.

Klopp confirmed that the 24-year-old will be a member of the squad that travels to St Mary's, with a view to building up his fitness ahead of Sunday's Premier League showdown with Manchester United.

"I think Phil is fit enough to be part of the squad and that means there could be minutes, but it depends on the game," he told a press conference at Liverpool's Melwood training base.

"It was six or seven weeks and that is long so he needs minutes in training especially, but then as soon as possible minutes in games.

"No final decision has been made until now, but tomorrow (Tuesday) would be his fourth session with the team. It is not that many, but for being in the squad it is enough."

Klopp also said that captain Jordan Henderson will return to first-team training on Thursday following a heel problem.

Southampton's unsettled Portuguese centre-back Jose Fonte, meanwhile, will not be selected for the League Cup tie, manager Claude Puel said on Monday.

Fonte, the Southampton captain, is reported to have tabled a transfer request and with his future uncertain, the Frenchman has decided to leave him out of the squad for the second game running.

"Jose doesn't participate in this game. We will see for the next game," Puel told his pre-match press conference. "But for the moment, and with the situation of Jose, it's important to keep the stability in defence. We don't know the future for Jose.

"It's a difficult situation with the (transfer) window (being open). For the moment, I stay with stability in defence.

"The club has given him the possibility to study different opportunities during the window and it's important to respect this."

The 33-year-old Portugal international also missed Southampton's 2-2 FA Cup third-round draw at second-tier Norwich on Saturday.

The Liverpool manager is expected to revert to a full-strength line-up at Southampton, having fielded the club's youngest-ever team in Sunday's 0-0 FA Cup stalemate at home to fourth-tier Plymouth Argyle.

But the German again insisted he had no regrets about his team selection.

"The question I asked this morning in the dressing room was, 'Could we have done better?' One hundred percent yes with this line-up," Klopp said.

"I don't expect perfection, but I have high expectations because I see them every day in training and I was convinced we could play really well.

"I have absolutely no problem with criticism, but it was not about underestimating an opponent."