Friday 23 June 2017

Coutinho set to be among returning Reds big guns

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho. Photo: PA
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho. Photo: PA

Chris Bascombe

Philippe Coutinho is ready to make his Liverpool return as Jurgen Klopp vowed to pick his strongest line-up for tomorrow's League Cup semi-final with Southampton.

Coutinho has not played since the end of November after sustaining ankle ligament damage against Sunderland. He may not be fit to start for the first leg at St Mary's, but Klopp intends to at least use him as a substitute.

"I think Phil is fit enough to be part of the squad and that means there could be minutes," said Klopp. "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 he did the third complete session with the team so tomorrow again would be the fourth. It is not that many but for being in the squad it is enough."

Having made ten changes for the FA Cup draw with Plymouth, the senior players will return, although captain Jordan Henderson remains absent with a heel issue.

Klopp also indicated goalkeeper Loris Karius may keep his place having been recalled last weekend but having nothing to do.

"We made the changes against Plymouth for different reasons. There was no real alternative for different reasons," said Klopp.

"On Wednesday we will play the best team we can. If you ask for a rating in England the League Cup is third but while you are still in it, it is the most important cup."

Klopp stood by his decision to rest so many players against Plymouth.

"If you win it is wonderful with the youngest line-up ever. After the game it is the easiest job to ask why did you make all these changes," said Klopp.

"The question I asked this morning in the dressing-room was 'could we have done better?' One hundred per cent yes with this line-up.

"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 no problem with criticism but it was not about under-estimating an opponent. It is not about young, old, whatever. It is about which line-up made the most sense because of the injury situations of the players and the timing: when do we play who?"

Jose Fonte, meanwhile, has been left out of Southampton's squad due to his desire to leave the club during the January transfer window.

Fonte has handed in a transfer request, having been denied a move away from the south coast club during the summer transfer window.

"Jose won't participate for this game," said manager Claude Puel. "We will see for the next game. It is important to keep stability. We will see (about including him in the future), I do not comment on the possibility (of him moving). I think it is important to respect the other players."

Telegraph.co.uk

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