Football: Reds must get on without Coutinho

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho with manager Jurgen Klopp. The German is confident that the team ethic he has instilled at Anfield will help the Reds ride out the disruption due to the absence of so many injured players.
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho with manager Jurgen Klopp. The German is confident that the team ethic he has instilled at Anfield will help the Reds ride out the disruption due to the absence of so many injured players. PHOTO: REUTERS

Klopp wants team to maintain good run even as influential Brazilian is out for 5 to 6 weeks

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has said Liverpool will cope without Philippe Coutinho and the Brazilian's absence is "no excuse" for his team's form to falter.

The influential No. 10 is expected to be sidelined for five to six weeks, after scans on Monday confirmed he suffered ankle ligament damage during last Saturday's Premier League win over Sunderland.

The 24-year-old is due to miss the League Cup quarter-final against Leeds United, possibly seven Premier League matches, including a Merseyside derby at Everton and Manchester City's visit to Anfield, and may not return until either the weekend of the FA Cup third round or the visit to Manchester United on Jan 15.

The scans, however, allayed concerns that surgery or a three-month layoff would be required and Coutinho has not given up hope of featuring in the New Year's Eve clash against Pep Guardiola's City side.

Coutinho has been in commanding form for a Liverpool side who sit second in the table, one point behind the leaders, Chelsea, and his loss is an untimely setback for Klopp before the demanding festive period.

But the Liverpool manager is adamant the team ethic he has created at Anfield can withstand the disruption.

Klopp, who is also without Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino because of injuries, said: "Phil Coutinho is a really good football player and if we can't use him for the next few days or weeks then every team in the world would feel that. That's how it is but there is no excuse for anything.

"Phil, as good as he is, cannot decide games on his own even if it looks like that at times. He dribbles, he shoots and he is important but it is really a team performance that we have created.

"He's a very important part of that but of course we can handle it...

"Phil's not in, Adam is close but not in, Daniel is not in; they are all quality players but we don't look for excuses. We want to show it's possible to play the way we play football without them, but of course it is better if they are all fit."

The manager admits his options are limited up front - Sturridge and Lallana have yet to resume first-team training after respective calf and groin problems and Firmino is likely to be out for a while after taking a kick to the calf against Sunderland.

The teenager Ben Woodburn could step in, having made his Liverpool debut as a late substitute at Anfield on Saturday. The 17-year-old, a Wales youth international, impressed Klopp during pre-season.

"I think Ben is mentally ready to start a game," the German said. "We've shown him the Premier League for the first time, but the best news for him is there is so much time for him to improve and develop and we will help him.

"But he's a very, very promising player and we want to use him as early as possible.

"He and a few other guys are in a really good way and sometimes we have to show that when they have earned something, they will get something back."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'Reds must get on without Coutinho'. Print Edition | Subscribe