Coutinho ready to fill mane-sized void

Reds playmaker Philippe Coutinho tussling with Sevilla's Gabriel Mercado during their Champions League Group E tie at Anfield. The Brazilian, who handed in a transfer request, saw his dream move to Barca collapse but will now knuckle down to win back
Reds playmaker Philippe Coutinho tussling with Sevilla's Gabriel Mercado during their Champions League Group E tie at Anfield. The Brazilian, who handed in a transfer request, saw his dream move to Barca collapse but will now knuckle down to win back the Liverpool faithful.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Questions remain over Reds' defence, but Brazilian looks set to make first start

LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has suggested that Philippe Coutinho could make his first start of the season when the Reds host Burnley in the English Premier League today.

"He should be ready," said Klopp of the Brazilian playmaker, who missed the start of the season with a back injury and nearly moved to Spanish giants Barcelona in the summer before the potential transfer collapsed.

Coutinho finally made his return at Anfield in midweek, when he came off the bench for the final 15 minutes during the 2-2 Champions League draw with Sevilla.

"It was really nice how the crowd welcomed him. I don't think anyone was 100 per cent sure about this and I'm really happy that we, as a Liverpool family, were sensitive enough to do it like this," added Klopp at his pre-match conference yesterday.

"He has trained outstandingly in the few sessions we've had together so far since he's been back.

"The game (against Sevilla) was not perfect but that is how it is after a long break ."

  • ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

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  • TODAY

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    Liverpool v Burnley Ch102 & Ch227, 10pm

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While Coutinho could return to Klopp's starting XI, the Liverpool manager will have to cope without another forward, Sadio Mane, who starts the first of his three-match suspension following his red card against Manchester City last week.

However, the German is confident that his team have enough options in his absence.

"It was clear before the season that there would be moments he could not play," he said.

"That is how we reacted in building the squad so we have options.

"Roberto (Firmino) has already played left wing and of course Phil can play there. Alex (Oxlade-Chamberlain) can play there. We have more options so it's good, we can change the system.

"It is always difficult to replace top-class players in really good shape but we did it last year. We had to play without him and I think we did well in most games."

Klopp also dismissed concerns about Liverpool's poor defensive form - they have conceded 13 goals in seven games this season.

"Our fault is that we give you all the opportunity to talk about defensive mistakes," the 50-year-old said.

"It's a lack of concentration. For a defender, it is like a goalkeeper. You can play a world-class game but have one wrong moment. It is not a quality thing.

"It looks like we're talking about this all the time. We cannot take the five goals out from (the 5-0 defeat by) City, but if we could do it, we've had a lot of games with decent defensive performances."

Forward Danny Ings has returned to training after recovering from a knee injury, but midfielder Adam Lallana and right-back Nathaniel Clyne remain on the sidelines.

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LIVERPOOL V BURNLEY

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2017, with the headline 'Coutinho ready to fill mane-sized void'. Print Edition | Subscribe