Coutinho wins FOUR awards at Liverpool's end of season ceremony

The 23-year-old picked up a quartet of accolades just as he did at the end of 2014-15, following another campaign in which he proved to be the club’s standout star

Philippe Coutinho dominated at the Liverpool Players’ Awards ceremony for the second year running, collecting four prizes including Player of the Season.

The Brazilian was also selected as the Players’ Player of the Season, while his delightful dash into the box and dink over David de Gea in the 1-1 Europa League draw with Manchester United was voted as the Goal of the Season. 

That’s four in the bag for @Phil_Coutinho! He’s our Player of the Season! pic.twitter.com/hXpH6PfP9i

— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 12, 2016

On that wondrous and vital chip, Coutinho said: “It was a good one for me, but the most important thing is we beat them!”

And on being voted the club’s standout star by his colleagues, he added: “This means a lot to me, because it comes from my team-mates. It’s been a good season for all of us. 

“Now next week we have a big final, let’s do it together and show how strong we are.”

The 23-year-old, who is Liverpool’s joint-top scorer alongside Daniel Sturridge with 12 strikes, also walked away with the Performance of the Season accolade for his luminary showing in the 4-1 scorching of Manchester City at the Etihad. 

Coutinho’s four-award haul mirrored his tally from last year, in which he topped the same categories. 

Midfielder Emre Can, meanwhile, was named Young Player of the Season. 

Martha Harris clinched the Liverpool Ladies Players’ Player of the Season award, with Brad Smith earning the Academy Players’ Player of the Year vote. 

Liverpool legend Steve Heighway was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to the club over the past 46 years.

Steven Gerrard, whom the 68-year-old helped bring through while acting as director of the Reds’ academy, provided a special video tribute to the former Republic of Ireland international.

TEAM NEWS: Traore starts up front for Chelsea as Liverpool name strong side

The German marks a half-century of matches in charge on Wednesday night, and has selected his best available 11 as the Reds wave farewell to their fans for the campaign

Jurgen Klopp has fielded his strongest possible line-up as Liverpool welcome Chelsea to Anfield in their final home encounter of the season, which doubles up as the manager’s 50th game in charge of the club.

Daniel Sturridge spearheads the attack with Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana operating off the striker. Emre Can and James Milner marshall the midfield, while Dejan Lovren reaches a half-century of league games for the Reds. 


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The first XI for the visit of the Blues is expected to closely resemble the side that will face Sevilla in the Europa League final on May 18. 

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 12 encounters at Anfield and are one goal short of recording 150 against Chelsea in the top-flight at home. 

Chelsea, meanwhile, field Asmir Begovic between the posts, as Thibaut Courtois was ruled out by illness from the clash. 

Diego Costa is another absentee for Wednesday’s clash, as Bertrand Traore starts as Chelsea’s solitary forward with Pedro, Willian and Eden Hazard in support.  

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Moreno; Milner, Can; Coutinho, Lallana, Firmino; Sturridge.

Subs: Bogdan, Skrtel, Smith, Lucas, Allen, Ojo, Benteke.

Chelsea: Begovic; Azpilicueta, Mikel, Cahill, Baba Rahman; Fabregas, Matic; Pedro, Willian, Hazard; Traore 

Subs:  Amelia, Tomori, Kenedy, Loftus-Cheek, Palmer, Pato, Abraham. 

How will Brazil line up at the Copa America?

ANALYSIS: Despite Neymar missing the trip to the USA and David Luiz, Oscar and Roberto Firmino among the omissions, coach Dunga has a settled side for the tournament

Brazil head to USA next month in search of their ninth Copa America crown.

With captain Neymar sitting out in order to lead the Selecao into August’s Rio games, coach Dunga has selected a young squad for the centenary edition of the Copa America and is desperate to build momentum ahead of a second major tournament on home soil in two years.


GOALREAD MORE: GOAL
The Copa America squad | Brazil’s complicated Copa America history | Gabigol, the future?


One-time Dunga favourites Danilo, David Luiz, Marcelo, Oscar, Fernandinho, Kaka and Roberto Firmino were among those dropped from the group, however, Brazil still look set to arrive in North America with a fairly settled XI. 

The high-profile omissions have made headlines around the world but their absence will require only minor tweaks to the first team, which will be finalised on May 29 as the Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour hosts Panama in Denver.

Below, we take a look at the expected line-up that will seek to improve on last year’s disappointing quarter-final exit.

GOALKEEPER

Internacional’s Alisson Becker was handed his chance with the national team in October after Dunga ran out of patience with the previously immovable Jefferson and looks set to remain Brazil’s No.1.

The 23-year-old made his international debut in the 3-1 victory over Venzuela in World Cup qualifying after Jefferson failed to impress his coach in the 2-0 defeat to Chile days previously.

He remained for the next four qualifiers, and despite keeping just one clean sheet in his five caps to date, the reportedly Roma-bound man impressed, particularly in the 2-2 draw with Paraguay last time out.

He will be under pressure from Valencia’s Diego Alves, who has returned to the squad following a serious knee injury. It’s possible Alisson would never have got his chance were Diego Alves fit, but the Inter man has taken it with both hands and is currently the Selecao’s undisputed No.1.

DEFENDERS

For the back four it will be business as usual, with one exception: David Luiz has been dropped from the squad completely and will be replaced by Shandong Luneng’s Gil in central defence.

David Luiz is the second most-used defender under Dunga (13) and has captained the side twice. However, a red card against Argentina in November was quickly followed by a yellow in March’s qualifier with Uruguay, which earned him a second suspension in two international breaks.

Coupled with his struggles to contain Luis Suarez in the latter, Dunga appears to have lost patience and will turn to former Corinthians’ man Gil. He will be joined my Miranda, who has been a pillar of consistency and played all 22 matches under the current coach. The Inter man should captain the side.

Atletico Madrid’s in-form Filipe Luis will remain at left-back and Barcelona’s Dani Alves is set to retain his place on the right. Olympic prospects Douglas Santos and Fabinho will provide cover for the full-backs.

MIDFIELD

In midfield, Corinthians man Elias should return. He formed a strong partnership with Luiz Gustavo at the base of the midfield prior to an injury and was often preferred over Fernandinho.

The biggest plus in the last two rounds of qualifiers has been the emergence of Elias’ former club-mate Renato Augusto. His decision to go to China was criticised by local media but the smart-passing playmaker has been arguably Brazil’s best player over the last four matches, scoring twice.

He will be charged with filling the creative void left by Neymar. As will Willian, touted by many as being Brazil’s most consistent performer since World Cup 2014. The Chelsea man has grown into a senior role with the team Dunga’s arrival, his tireless work ethic now complemented by a willingness to take responsibility on the ball.

Willian will likely start wide right of an attacking midfield charged with supporting a lone striker, with Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa on the left. A major tactical shift under the current coach, however, is to have his front men constantly on the move, so they could well interchange throughout games.

Lucas Lima, Rafinha, Coutinho and Casemiro all appear set for a battle to prove themselves worthy of a starting berth.

FORWARD

Centre-forward has been an issue ever since World Cup 2014, with local commentators suggesting Brazil are suffering a lack of top talent in the role. Dunga attempted to circumnavigate the issue by introducing a false No.9 but is yet to find anyone to convince him entirely.

The likes of Diego Tardelli, Luiz Adriano, Robinho, Roberto Firmino and Jonas have all come and gone.

Thirty-six-year-old Ricardo Oliveira is enjoying something of an Indian summer in international football and is favourite to start in USA, though he will offer the presence of a more traditional centre forward.

He will face competition for the place from Hulk, another who has been tried but is yet to claim the position as his own.

Most interesting, however, could be Oliveira’s Santos team-mate Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa. He is another set to join Neymar at the Rio games. The uncapped 19-year-old is yet to make a major splash for his country, and was even left out of the Under-20 World Cup squad that finished runners-up in New Zealand last year.

He has been in fine form for his club, however, and could well be the future of the Selecao.

PREDICITED XI

Dunga should have his side line up in a variation of 4-3-3, which can morph into a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1.

Neymar’s absence means Brazil will be forced to confront their two biggest issues dating back to the previous World Cup: can they do it without Neymar? And who can be Brazil’s No.9?

Ricardo Oliveira spoke this week about sharing the burden in the Barcelona man’s absence, and the decision to save him for the Olympics also means Dunga will not be able to ask him to solve the problem of who can lead the line.

Arriving just one year after last year’s edition, the Copa America Centenario certainly isn’t Brazil’s top priority. However, a good showing in USA would set them in good stead for the Rio Olympics and buy Dunga a little relief from the increased pressure he’s found himself under in recent months.

Denis Suarez: Liverpool deserve respect for dumping out Dortmund

The attacker respects the Reds and spoke of his awe of Jurgen Klopp, but is confident Villarreal can hold their own in the Europa League semi-final on Thursday


GOALEXCLUSIVE


Denis Suarez insists Liverpool deserve respect from Villarreal for their last-gasp win over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League quarter-final. 

Suarez admitted that the Yellow Submarine squad had watched parts of the clash between the Reds and Dortmund, as Jurgen Klopp’s side mounted a remarkable comeback to win.

Trailing by three goals, Liverpool turned the tie on it’s head to win the second leg 4-3, with the midfielder suggesting it was incredible that they managed to elminate Thomas Tuchel’s side. 

“We have seen portions of the game [Liverpool’s win over Dortmund]. It was incredible,” Suarez told Goal. “Liverpool eliminated a team that I think was the favourite for the title. And so you have to respect them a lot.

“They have a great team and a great squad, and although we have nothing to envy, we do respect them a lot.

“Of course [an-all Spanish final is the target]. But first we have a very tough tie against Liverpool in the semi-finals. Hopefully it will be like that.


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The match against Dortmund heralded the revival that Klopp has led at Anfield, and Suarez confirmed he was a big fan of the German’s work, adding: “I’ve followed Klopp since he was at Dortmund.

“His teams are tactically very good, with great intensity, rapid transitions, effective in attack, and I think Liverpool are also making their mark. They are a great team and will be a very, very difficult opponent for Villarreal.”

Nevertheless, Suarez was quick to insist his team are not inferior to their visitors on Thursday, talking up the strengths of the Yellow Submarine while discussing comparisons with Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho. 

“I think anyone in the early season would have thought we would do well at this stage,” the Spaniard suggested.

“We are fourth in La Liga, Champions League qualification is not yet out of reach and we will try in these coming days to reach it.

“And in Europe we now have an incredible tie against a historical rival like Liverpool. Everyone would like to play this kind of game and we now have the possibility of playing them, but we will also try to win, of course.

“I have adapted very well to Villarreal and its style, the team is doing very well this year and Marcelino has given me confidence, that is appreciated.

“It’s true that we [Coutinho and I] play in the same position, more or less, and have similar characteristics. To me, Coutinho seems to me a great player.

“He’s had a very good season, scoring goals and playing well. I’m not one to talk about a duel between him and me, but I do hope Villarreal win.”

LEAKED: Has the PFA Young Player of the Year winner been revealed?

A leaked photo of Tottenham’s matchday programme for Monday’s game against West Brom appears to show that midfielder Dele Alli already has the prize wrapped up


A leaked edition of Tottenham’s programme for Monday’s Premier League clash with West Brom appears to have revealed Dele Alli as the PFA Young Player of the Year. 

The award is yet to be officially announced, with the ceremony held on Sunday night, but the reported publication refers to Alli as the recipient of the award. 

Alli has been nominated alongside Tottenham team-mate and last season’s winner Harry Kane as well as Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho, Stoke’s Jack Butland and Everton pair Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley.

However, it appears the Spurs midfielder has the award wrapped up already, according to a picture of the club’s matchday programme in which they congratulate the 20-year-old for winning it.

Tomorrow nights match programme #THFC pic.twitter.com/Wwh2KPhfG9

— Paul O Keefe (@pokeefe1) April 24, 2016

England international Alli has scored 10 goals and set up nine in 32 Premier League appearances this term and has played in all but two of his side’s league games.

Monday’s meeting with West Brom is incredibly significant for Mauricio Pochettino’s men, as they look to return to within five points of the table toppers Leicester City, who beat Swansea 4-0 on Sunday.

From Melwood to Hollywood? Liverpool squad recite famous movie lines

The Reds’ players put their acting skills to the test by attempting various well-known phrases from American films, with Nathaniel Clyne and Mamadou Sakho impressing


GOAL EXTRA TIME 


Footballers are often asked which profession they would be in had they not made it as a player. 

And on the evidence of a video recently released by Liverpool, acting is one career that would have been firmly shut off to the vast majority of the Anfield club’s stars.

Ahead of Liverpool’s participation in the International Champions Cup in the United States in July, the club released a video featuring Jurgen Klopp and his players attempting lines from films such as Jaws, Forrest Gump and Toy Story.

Mamadou Sakho and Nathaniel Clyne are among the best performers, with the right-back’s impersonation of the Joker from The Dark Knight a particular highlight.

Lucas Leiva and Philippe Coutinho also have their positive moments, although the former seemed to prefer showing off his impression of a Liverpudlian accent.

James Milner and Jon Flanagan were disappointing, though, while Jordan Henderson’s attempts were dismal.

You can watch the full video below…

 [embedded content]

Coutinho puts on a magic show as Liverpool dent Tottenham's title tilt

The 23-year-old was central to everything good about the Reds against title-chasing Tottenham at Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp calling him a “genius player”


GOALCOMMENT


Earlier in the week, LFCTV aired a special magic show which had ‘mind wizard’ Dave Alnwick assist Philippe Coutinho in predicting team-mate Lucas Leiva’s thoughts.

At Anfield on Saturday evening, he proved he didn’t need hired help to conjure up something special in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham. The Brazilian, scorer of the sublime opening goal, was central to everything Liverpool looked to do. This despite only returning to Melwood from international duty on Thursday.

He attempted the most shots, created their most chances, attempted and succeeded in their most take-ons, delivered the most attacking third passes for the hosts, and was second in their tackling table. 

When Jurgen Klopp’s side pressed, he was present. When they looked for a telling pass, he was the one the team turned to. And when the home fans needed encouragement, it was the Brazilian who provided it as they reciprocated and chanted his name.

Coutinho popped up in pockets of space, and even when Spurs tried to put him under pressure, he seemed to make their hassling disappear. On 51 minutes, he picked up the ball about 30 yards from goal, exchanged a one-two with Daniel Sturridge and deftly finished to fire Liverpool ahead. 

Harry Kane’s equaliser and Christian Eriksen’s effort in the build-up was as brilliant, but it was Coutinho who looked most likely to force the winner.

The 23-year-old is Liverpool’s top scorer this season and is nowhere close to his ceiling. He has hit double figures for the first time in his career, which include goals against both Manchester clubs and Chelsea.

When Klopp’s reconstruction gets underway in the summer, building around Coutinho should be paramount to the German’s plans.

Ahead of kick-off on Saturday, 17 points separated Liverpool and Tottenham, but that was not evident on the pitch. Just as was the case in the goalless draw at White Hart Lane in October, during Klopp’s first match in charge, there was not much between the teams at Anfield.

Liverpool edged shots on target and tackles, Spurs had the better possession and passing figures. Both forced the other into errors and both goalkeepers pulled off impressive saves. 

Encouragingly for the hosts, Tottenham are title contenders and yet, the difference between the sides is not as staggering as the league table suggests. The north Londoners have the two things Liverpool have lacked most: consistency and a formidable goalscorer with no fitness issues. 

But with quality recruits, a full pre-season, and time under Klopp, the Reds are most certainly “in a good way” to borrow the manager’s words. 

It also helps that they already have a magician to count on.

Willian and Costa but no Coutinho or Oscar – Brazil's first-choice midfield

Elias is the only starter missing from the squad to take on Uruguay on Friday while Renato Augusto is set to retain his role after impressing against Peru

One key task facing Brazil coach Dunga when returning for his second spell in the role following World Cup 2014 was to reconstruct the side’s midfield.

Brazilian football moved away from the sleek and cerebral passing midfielder many years ago and in recent years the Selecao have struggled to find the balance so vital to the centre of the field.

Dunga has sought to address that largely by searching for multifunctional players since his July 2014 appointment. He has capped 18 different midfielders in his 20 matches in charge so far.

Luiz Gustavo, Fernandinho, Elias, Ramires, Everton Ribeiro, Oscar, Willian and Phillipe Coutinho all made Dunga’s first squad, in September 2014. 

Luiz Gustavo, who missed the Copa America through injury, has remained and is undoubtedly one of Brazil’s most consistent players since breaking into the side at Confederations Cup 2013. The Wolfsburg man plays the vital role of protecting Brazil’s back four, always joined by a partner in Dunga’s double pivot.

That partner is usually Corinthians’ Elias. The 30-year-old has curtailed his desire to make late runs into the box as he does so successfully with his club, but his disciplined sense of positioning and smart, simple passing have turned him into a Dunga favourite. Of all the midfielders used since Dunga’s arrival, only the ever-present Willian has made more appearances than Elias.

Manchester City’s Fernandinho is the next most-used midfielder by Dunga, but just 7 of his 15 appearances have arrived as a starter after Elias won the battle for the role of Luiz Gustavo’s deputy.

After a sharp dip in form at Chelsea, Ramires was cast aside and his international career appears to have come to an end following his move to China; as does that of Dubai-based Everton Ribeiro.

Liverpool’s Countinho, meanwhile, found himself dropped from the squad after Dunga was left unimpressed by his showings at Copa America. He has returned this month but only because of an injury to Elias. While there is certainly a case to say Coutinho hasn’t been given a fair crack at replicating his club form for the Selecao, he faces stiff competition for the attacking roles where Brazil are most blessed.

Chelsea’s Oscar was another who missed the Copa America through injury and, though he remains a Dunga favourite, has now lost his place in the first team, originally to Santos playmaker Lucas Lima. A late developer, Lima added the range of passing to a midfield that was criticised for its lack of creativity.

However last time out he was replaced by Renato Augusto, who was roundly lauded for his showing against Peru. The former Corinthians man rolled in Brazil’s second and added a balance and control perhaps previously unseen in Dunga’s midfield three.

Willian is one of just two players to appear in all 20 of Dunga’s games in charge. Arguably Brazil’s best player since World 2014, he has grown into his role and is now taking more responsibility for leading the team’s attacking play. Willian is an undisputed starter, usual on the right.

Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa has established himself a regular more recently, and his presence on the left has seen Dunga shift Neymar into a false no.9 position – a role by which Dunga seemed unconvinced during the victory over Peru, but a ploy he appears set to repeat against Uruguay on Friday.

And so on Brazil’s midfield, shifting between a 4-5-1 and a 4-3-3, is expected to line up: Willian, Fernandinho, Luiz Gustavo, Renato Augusto, Douglas Costa.

Klopp only wants committed players at Liverpool

The German insists he would prefer to sell an unhappy player, no matter how good he is, rather than keep him at the club against his will ahead of a rumoured summer overhaul

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he will always look to offload unhappy players rather than keep them at the club against their will, no matter how good they are.

The German is reportedly set to overhaul the squad he inherited from Brendan Rodgers in the summer as he looks to build a team in his own image.

And Klopp even revealed he would consider selling a star player if they were not fully committed to his approach, arguing no player in the world is “unsellable”.

“Everything is okay at the moment but nobody in the world – maybe only Lionel Messi – is unsellable,” Klopp told reporters.

“There is always a situation. I come from a club where the best players are always picked by other teams and in the end you have to accept a few things. You always need to have a Plan B or a Plan C. 


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“If a player comes to me and says he doesn’t feel comfortable and wants to leave because of our style of play or because he can make more money elsewhere, then you always have to start thinking. That’s all I can say on this.

“[Philippe] Coutinho, [Roberto] Firmino, so many players are very special. You could go through the whole squad. But if a player wants to go to another club then I’d always be open to it because I don’t want to have a player in my squad who doesn’t want to be in the squad. 

“These are problems you don’t need during a season. A player is never good enough for you to have to cope with problems like that for an entire year.”

One first-team player who could be set to leave Anfield once the season ends is club captain Jordan Henderson, according to the Mail.

I know what Coutinho is capable of, says Mignolet

The Brazil international came up with a special strike to finally end the hopes of Louis Van Gaal’s men, and his team-mate said such strikes were commonplace

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was not surprised by Philippe Coutinho’s “very special” goal in the second leg of Liverpool’s Europa League tie against Manchester United – because he has been on the receiving end of similar efforts in training.

With the first half drawing to a close and his side trailing 1-0 at Old Trafford, Coutinho produced a moment of individual brilliance to bring the visitors level on the night.

The Brazil international managed to trick his way past Manchester United full-back Guillermo Varela before delicately lifting the ball over goalkeeper David de Gea from a tight angle.

Mignolet says his team-mate’s strike came at the perfect time, as Liverpool had seen their 2-0 first-leg lead cut in half by Anthony Martial’s 32nd-minute penalty.

“From where I was it was difficult to see how tight the angle was,” the goalkeeper told the Liverpool Echo.


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“But I’ve seen it back and it was a very special goal. He got past the defender and the finish from that angle was just incredible. Philippe made it look so easy.

“I wasn’t surprised because I see him do that every day in training. He scores goals like that past me. I know what he’s capable of.

“He’s such a good player for us and he helped us get the job done against United.

“Phil scored at exactly the right time, just before half-time. It changed the game.”

Having knocked out United 3-1 on aggregate, Liverpool will next face manager Jurgen Klopp’s former side Borussia Dortmund in the last eight of the tournament.