Saturday 7 December 2019

Rodgers shows support for Coutinho

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has given his backing to mis-firing midfielder Philippe Coutinho, pictured
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has given his backing to mis-firing midfielder Philippe Coutinho, pictured

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has given his backing to misfiring midfielder Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian's disappointing start to the season.

The 22-year-old has started three of the Reds' four league matches but last weekend's defeat to Aston Villa was the first time he completed 90 minutes, while he was also taken off in their Champions League win over Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets.

In Liverpool's best performance so far - the 3-0 win at Tottenham - Coutinho was left on the bench throughout and the early part of the campaign has seen him fail to showcase the talent he has displayed intermittently since his arrival in January 2013.

However, Rodgers has no doubt about the Brazilian's quality or ability.

"He's a brilliant young player, a fantastic young player," he said.

"I had planned to leave him out of the game against Aston Villa because he'd had a lot of travelling in the international week, and if we didn't have so many injuries he would have been given a rest on the side and then played in the Champions League game.

"We couldn't afford to do that. We had to play him, but it was great for him and his experience getting back into the Brazilian squad.

"I've got no qualms about him; he's a big, big talent. He has lit up the Premier League since he came to the club.

"He's going to have some games where he won't be at his best, but he always gives his best and that's all I ever ask of the players.

"The kid is a great boy who wants to do well. He's very conscious that I have absolutely no doubts about him."

Coutinho has yet to produce at a consistently high level for a long period but has shown flashes of his undoubted potential.

One criticism which has been aimed at the diminutive midfielder previously is that he can sometimes be isolated because of the physicality in Premier League matches, but Rodgers rejected that.

"I don't think it's a question now if he can cope," said the manager.

"He's been here 18 months and you only need to measure him since he's been in and look at the big games where he's been absolutely brilliant.

"He's like any normal player - you'll sometimes be 6/10, you won't always be 9 or 10/10.

"Whilst he isn't at his best, the reliance isn't solely on him. If we are to succeed, it'll be about the whole team playing well.

"If he's not, there will be other players, he can have a rest and then he'll go again.

"There's no doubting whether he has the pace, power or strength because he's already shown in so many games he has all of those qualities."

There was mixed news on the injury front, with defender Martin Skrtel (knee) returning to training and full-back Glen Johnson (thigh) due to re-join the squad later in the week, although not early enough to be considered for Saturday's trip to West Ham.

England striker Daniel Sturridge (thigh) is pencilled in for a return next week, but midfielder Joe Allen (knee) is still at least a fortnight away while defender Jon Flanagan has been ruled out for some time.

"Jon, unfortunately, has just had an operation that will probably have him out for a few months, which is disappointing," Rodgers told

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