The Big Match

Football: Reds sweating over fitness of Coutinho

Danny Rose.
Danny Rose.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ACTION IMAGES
Sadio Mane.
Sadio Mane.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ACTION IMAGES
Erik Lamela.
Erik Lamela.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ACTION IMAGES
James Milner.
James Milner.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ACTION IMAGES
Harry Kane.
Harry Kane.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ACTION IMAGES
Ragnar Klavan.
Ragnar Klavan.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ACTION IMAGES

Klopp won't risk key Brazilian at White Hart Lane if he fails to recover from muscle injury

LONDON • Liverpool, who have had an inconsistent start to the new season, may not be able to field influential playmaker Philippe Coutinho today, as he has a muscle injury.

The Brazilian missed the 5-0 midweek League Cup thrashing of Burton Albion, and will not be risked against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane if he is not fit.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the club's website: "The muscle was a little stiff. He felt something, so we didn't want to take a risk against Burton.

"We left him out of training until now. We have to make a decision (before the match with Tottenham) what we can do with him."

Coutinho's absence could hurt Liverpool as his two goals against Arsenal in a 4-3 win - one of which was a sublime free kick - helped the Reds start their new Premier League campaign with a bang.

Despite being well aware of the 24-year-old's quality, Klopp has stressed he will not risk Coutinho if he has any doubts over the injury.


PHOTO: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ACTION IMAGES

"It is not a situation to take any risk. We have to talk to the player," he said.

The manager is still searching for consistency after Liverpool bounced back to beat Burton after losing 0-2 at promoted Burnley last weekend.

Tottenham drew at Everton in their season opener before edging out Crystal Palace last weekend, and Klopp believes the two teams have evolved in similar ways since the 0-0 draw on his last trip to White Hart Lane last October.

"Both teams have consistency in the squad. There are of course new players, but not too many changes," said the German, whose side lost at Burnley despite having over 80 per cent of possession.

"It will be exciting what will happen there. They are still strong, of course. They've brought a few very good players in with the basis of their former squad.

"For us, everything could have been better, but it could have been worse. We're still on the way. My team gave me a lot of really good signs to work with."

Klopp's line-up is unlikely to be radically different from the team he selected at Spurs on his Liverpool bow, with Martin Skrtel the only starting player to have left the club in the 10 months since.

Should Emre Can and Divock Origi overcome fitness concerns, Klopp could feasibly start with seven of the players who took to the field in his first match.

If Origi misses out through cramp, it could be good news for Daniel Sturridge, who had complained about being played on the right flank at Burton, where he scored two late goals.

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Match points: Tottenham v Liverpool

Key battles

Danny Rose v Sadio Mane

Reputations are often elevated in absentia. Mane's went up with his brilliant debut at Arsenal and again when he missed the Burnley defeat. The Senegalese player's pace and ability to go outside a full-back mean he brings incision and a dimension Liverpool otherwise lack. Rose is similarly speedy. It will be instructive if he goes forward less than usual.

Erik Lamela v James Milner

Midfielder Milner is Liverpool's left-back at the moment, following Alberto Moreno's abject display at Arsenal. This is his first proper test. Lamela has started the season well, scoring against Merseyside opposition in Everton two weeks ago, and possesses a blend of skill and elusiveness to test a specialist defender, let alone a makeshift.

Harry Kane v Ragnar Klavan

Klavan had looked assured in pre-season but the newcomer has found competitive games altogether harder. He was particularly poor at Burnley, where a half-hearted challenge led to Andre Gray's goal. Now he faces the ultra-committed Kane. The Englishman has yet to hit top form but still provided an assist for Victor Wanyama's winner last week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2016, with the headline 'Reds sweating over fitness of Coutinho'. Print Edition | Subscribe