Coutinho up there with the very best – Rodgers

The Liverpool manager was full of praise for the Brazilian midfielder after his “outstanding” performance in the Reds’ 2-0 victory over Newcastle at Anfield

Brendan Rodgers believes that Coutinho is up there with the “very, very best” after his “sensational” display in Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on Monday night.

Goals from Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen secured all three points for the Reds, who moved within four points of fourth-placed Manchester City in the race for Champions League qualification.

But it was the Brazilian who was singled out for praise by his manager after the game.

“I thought he was incredible tonight,” Rodgers told reporters. “I thought he showed that he’s really up there with the very, very best in the most competitive league in the world, which is the Barclays Premier League.

“I played him in that role just in front of the centre-halves, thinking that we could exploit the space in between their midfield and the centre-halves and create space for players to make runs in behind. I thought he was sensational.

“He’s a young player who came in, we only paid €12 million for him, and it was purely due to them, Inter Milan, needing funds. It was nothing to do with his ability. I’d seen him play as an 18-year-old in the Champions League with top-class players, so he was a kid that always had the ability.

“But he’s become stronger, become more tactically aware and I think you see him now really orchestrating the game for us. It was an outstanding performance tonight, he ooked very fit and strong, and he’s had a wonderful season.”

Aguero and Sterling star in Terry's PFA Team of the Year

The Chelsea captain – unable to pick his Blues team-mates – has picked his XI, with the likes of Sadio Mane, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Ryan Bertrand all featuring

Chelsea captain John Terry has named his PFA Team of the Year, with rumoured Blues target Raheem Sterling included as well as four Southampton players.

With players unable to pick their team-mates, Terry has sprung a few surprises, as Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Ryan Bertrand and Sadio Mane all feature in his XI.

In goal, David de Gea gets the nod ahead of Tottenham star Hugo Lloris, while Laurent Koscielny partners Fonte in the heart of the defence.

Two Liverpool players are also selected, with Philippe Coutinho and Sterling – who Jose Mourinho recently advised Liverpool to sell – named in midfield, along with De Gea’s Manchester United team-mate Juan Mata.

Up front, Spurs striker Harry Kane – who scored twice against Chelsea in a 5-3 win on New Year’s Day – joins Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, who has hit 23 goals in all competitions thus far this season.

Morgan Schneiderlin, however, may feel unlucky to have missed out on Terry’s team, given his fine form this season, while Alexis Sanchez – who has enjoyed a superb debut season in the Premier League – is another notable snub.

We should have had a penalty against Liverpool – Bowyer

Joe Allen escaped punishment after diverting Ben Marshall’s header with his arm and the Rovers boss was far from pleased

Blackburn Rovers manager Gary Bowyer felt his side should have had a penalty after they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho’s second-half goal at Ewood Park on Wednesday.

Bowyer had seen his side surrender 1-0 in a quarter-final replay but was unhappy referee Kevin Friend had not seen what he believed to be a clear penalty when the ball appeared to skim the arm of Joe Allen from Ben Marshall’s header.

Bowyer felt the Championship outfit should have been awarded a spot kick, although none of his players appealed at the time.

“We are a little bit disappointed with a decision that didn’t go our way in terms of a penalty,” Bowyer told BT Sport.

“His arm’s out in an unnatural position and it looks like he’s diverted it.”

Bowyer was surprised to see goalkeeper Simon Eastwood have a late chance after he joined a Blackburn attack for a throw-in close to the Liverpool area.

Eastwood, who had pulled off good first-half saves to deny Coutinho and Glen Johnson, turned on the ball before firing straight at Mignolet.

“‘Easty’ at the end. I didn’t know he could do that so he might be playing up front on Saturday,” Bowyer joked.

“I think it was a shock that he was able to do that. It was an unbelievable turn from him.

“Our group is an honest group, they have a right good go and to push Liverpool like that over two games and still have a chance like that in the dying seconds I have nothing but praise for them.”

Henderson hails 'brilliance' of Liverpool hero Coutinho

The Brazil international netted the only goal of the game to see off Blackburn Rovers as Brendan Rodgers’ quest for a first trophy as Reds manager continued

Jordan Henderson hailed the “brilliance” of match-winner Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian secured Liverpool’s place in the FA Cup semi-finals.

Coutinho scored the only goal of Wednesday’s quarter-final replay win over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, burying a low finish across goal after he had played a neat one-two with Henderson in the right channel.

The victory earned Liverpool a semi-final meeting with Aston Villa at Wembley and kept manager Brendan Rodgers’ bid for a first trophy with the Anfield club on course.

Henderson told BT Sport: “Philippe has got a great football brain and the easy bit is just giving him it.

“That little bit of brilliance from him wins us the game.

“We go to Wembley against Villa. I am sure it will be a tough game because they are a good side.”

Henderson admitted Liverpool’s recent defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League had placed more importance on the FA Cup, with hopes of qualifying for the Champions League fading.

“It was a really important game for us today,” he added. “Everybody has been disappointed the last couple of weeks. We knew it would be difficult for us.”

Coutinho eager to add more goals to his game

The Brazilian playmaker has enjoyed a superb season for the Reds but remains determined to improve his goalscoring record, having hit just 13 in 92 games for the club

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho admits he must add more goals to his game as he strives to match Europe’s elite players.

The Brazilian playmaker has been in outstanding form this season but has scored just five times in all competitions as the club have attempted to qualify for the Champions League for the second season in a row.

In total, Coutinho has netted just 13 goals in 92 games since joining the Reds from Inter in January 2013, and the 22-year-old insists he is determined to improve his record in the coming months.

He told Liverpool’s official website: “I think I still have to improve. I have not improved yet. I scored a few goals last month but I need to improve.

“I have this ambition, this objective of improving finishing. In the position I play, I need to score goals to help the team and create plays. Therefore I must improve my goalscoring skills.”

Rodgers and Liverpool turn Coutinho into the Premier League's great entertainer

COMMENT: A return to form – and the bravery to try the outrageous – has helped the Brazilian and the Reds re-emerge as contenders in 2015

By Liam Twomey

For Brendan Rodgers, Sunday’s pulsating win over Manchester City at Anfield must have felt like validation. After a five-month identity crisis followed by almost three months of solid progress, Liverpool’s best performance of the post-Luis Suarez era finally yielded a statement result.

That Philippe Coutinho should be the one to score a brilliant winner was especially fitting. Only 11 months ago the Brazilian pounced on a Vincent Kompany error to vanquish the same opponents and set Liverpool on course for a first league title in 24 years with four matches left. A fortnight later Jose Mourinho intervened, glory slipped away and in the summer that followed, talisman Suarez departed for Barcelona.

The fortunes of Coutinho and Liverpool have been intertwined ever since. Shorn of Suarez, plunged into expensive rebuilding and deprived of the injured Daniel Sturridge, an attacking system founded on lightning transitions and relentless motion lost all capacity and conviction. Now Rodgers’ men are back, the form team of the Premier League, and their Brazilian No.10 is the best and most exciting player in England in 2015.

Coutinho suffered as much as anyone during Liverpool’s slump, creating just 10 chances from open play before the turn of the year for a side that netted just 26 goals in its first 19 Premier League games, compared to 44 at the same stage last season. The New Year has seen him create 16 chances from open play in just eight matches – a better total than Cesc Fabregas and Mesut Ozil and on par with Christian Eriksen and David Silva. 

                                                                                                *Since January 1. Stats provided by Opta

Much of the credit must go to Rodgers for implementing a fluid 3-4-3 system that has again surrounded Coutinho with the pace and width he needs. “I think that period the team suffered at the start of the season, with our lack of penetration at the top of the field – he is the player that thrives on that,” the Liverpool boss admitted earlier this week. “He is normally the player that makes the last pass for those players running in to score the goals.

“We didn’t quite have that in the opening months. He had to stay longer on the ball and wasn’t as effective, but now the dynamics in the team are very good, with the pressing and the movement off the ball.”

Coutinho is not a possession footballer. He is a gambler in the most thrilling sense, one whose first thought is to commit defenders with a clever feint, driving run or incisive pass. It is telling that as his best form has returned and his productivity in terms of chance creation has increased, his pass accuracy in the final third has significantly dipped. After all, there is no reward – and precious little entertainment – without risk.

Passion and industry command instant respect in English football but it is the audacity of flamboyant talent that truly wins hearts. Gianfranco Zola and Dennis Bergkamp had their legacies defined more by the moments their genius created on the pitch than trophies won or other more tangible achievements. Coutinho is already known around Anfield as “The Little Magician” and, at 22, has plenty of time and room to grow.

“He offers that gold dust to how we play,” Rodgers added. “If you see videos of him playing futsal when he was 11 or 12 in Brazil, he’s playing the same game now only as an adult. We knew he had ability, it was just about trusting that ability and allowing it to grow. He has a beautiful arrogance on the ball, his touch is magical but he’s effective and efficient with it. Playing here at Liverpool, with the dynamics of how we want to work, is perfect for him.”

One obvious area of improvement is goalscoring. Coutinho has never netted more than five in a season and last month revealed he routinely stays behind at Melwood after training to work on his finishing. Two sensational long-range strikes in a week – taking his season’s tally to four – suggest progress is being made.

“He is a player that has always assisted and made the final pass in his career,” Rodgers insisted. “He is a very selfless player and a very humble young guy and would rather create for others. But his technique is at a high, high level so he is going to score more goals.”

If he does, Coutinho shows every sign of becoming a genuine superstar, and the new contract keeping him at Anfield until the summer of 2020 is an even better business move than the £8.5 million that brought him from Inter in January 2013. “It’s frightening to know what he could be worth now,” Rodgers admits.

One can only hope the moments he goes on to create remain every bit as priceless.

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Coutinho ready to make Brazil impact – Allen

The in-form Liverpool star scored a sensational goal to seal a 2-1 victory over Man City and his team-mate says he has taken his performances to “the next level”

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen is impressed by the way in which team-mate Philippe Coutinho has reached “the next level” and has tipped the in-form star to make a big impact with Brazil’s national team.

The former Inter player put in a stellar performance against Manchester City at Anfield, scoring a sensational winner to seal a 2-1 victory, continuing his excellent run of performances since the turn of the year.

Coutinho also netted the winner in the corresponding fixture last season and his latest strike added to further recent wonder-goals against Bolton and Southampton.

The 22-year-old, who has five caps, was included in Dunga’s Brazil squad for the recent games against Austria and Turkey, but is yet to start a match under the new national coach. He was not selected for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s World Cup squad on home soil last summer

“He is so good,” an admiring Allen told the Liverpool Echo. “The Brazilian team is obviously full of talent but he has to be really pushing for that. With his performances recently, Philippe has taken things to the next level. 

“Working with him day in, day out, he shows his quality every time he trains and plays and he scored a superb winner to get us the three points.

“He’s skilful and very versatile. He can play in different positions and teams are struggling to deal with him.

“Why has he started scoring? I think it is confidence. That’s a huge thing in football. The ability has always been there and technically he is right up there.

“I think some people forget how young he is at times. He is a young player getting better all the time.

“He is showing that goals are part of his game. He was always on this path. Those of us who work with him on a daily basis, we always knew he was going to kick on and reach this kind of level.”

Coutinho exposes Yaya Toure and Manchester City's soft centre

The Brazilian ran through the Premier League champions’ midfield at will, with Yaya Toure failing to get to grips with him and leaving Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala exposed

By Peter Staunton at Anfield

There are moments of magic but sometimes there are 90 full minutes’ worth. Philippe Coutinho arguably produced his finest display in a Liverpool shirt to inspire his side to victory against Manchester City at Anfield and bolster the Reds’s bid for Champions League qualification.

There was a sensational piece of brilliance for the winning goal and more besides. It was a display which had his manager deliver fulsome praise. “He is a joy to watch,” Brendan Rodgers told reporters. “He is a kid who has so much ahead of him in the game. He is a sensational footballer. To beat Joe Hart at that angle and power was a phenomenal shot.”

Coutinho was everything those in blue were not. He was energetic. He was positive with the ball at his feet. He made repeated inroads straight through the midfield. He was the man who made most of the difference, but Liverpool had plenty besides. Adam Lallana gave a display which reminded why Rodgers had paid £25 million for him, while Joe Allen, in the midfield where Steven Gerrard would usually patrol, was efficient and composed.

This is a Liverpool formation, however, which caters to Coutinho’s strengths. Last week, in another big game, he produced the goods early on against Southampton. Here, his goal which decided the outcome came much later. It was no less impressive.

After squaring up Pablo Zabaleta, the Brazilian curled a brilliant effort past the despairing grasp of Joe Hart. It was the type of hero moment that is usually reserved for the true difference-makers. For Liverpool, Coutinho is rapidly becoming just that.

“He is a player that has always assisted and made the final pass in his career,” said Rodgers. “He is a very selfless player and a very humble young guy and would rather create for others. We are encouraging him.

“He has a wonderful body movement around the box, he doesn’t need many touches to shift it and shoot. His technique is at a high, high level so he is going to score more goals. He is now arriving into the areas. He starting to get success and that encourages him to shoot more.”

Rodgers was left facing awkward questions during the week when he left Coutinho and Henderson out of his lineup to face Besiktas in the Europa League, with Steven Gerrard out injured. That particular gamble backfired. Liverpool were edged out on penalties, meaning their league position alone was going to be the only determining factor in their quest for the Champions League.

It was a calculated gamble in that respect because, even though the Reds struggled to make chances in Istanbul, they were restored to their effervescent best with Coutinho back in the lineup.

The squad did not arrive back in the country until early Friday morning but you would have assumed that it was City and not Liverpool who were jetlagged.

“Some of you guys feel what it was like getting back at half four in the morning and back home at six o’clock,” Rodgers told the press pack. “To prepare yourself for a game against the champions is no mean feat. You have to take your hat off to them; the performance was at a real top level. I have nothing but admiration.”

It was Coutinho who provided the early wizardry. He crossed for Lallana, who finished tidily albeit from an offside position. It was Coutinho who then enticed Vincent Kompany into a challenge on the halfway line which the City captain hopelessly misjudged. A couple of quick passes between himself and Raheem Sterling later and Henderson had given Liverpool the lead.

There was another ingenious pass with the outside of his foot shortly afterwards, to Sterling, which bent exactly to his will. Sterling squared up Eliaquim Mangala but his finish was lacking.

Sterling, as a withdrawn frontman, fared better physically than might be expected. Indeed, he even managed to bump Kompany to the ground with a robust shoulder challenge. This type of formation, however, is designed to smoke City’s imposing twin towers out from their centre-back stations and tempt them into winning the ball further up the field.

With Yaya Toure inept and unwilling to protect them from midfield, it was a plot which worked perfectly. Kompany and Mangala are no ballet dancers and are not nimble nor quick enough to operate comfortably in that part of the pitch.

That set the tone for much of City’s display. They recorded one measly shot on target, from which they scored through Edin Dzeko, and never showed the spark or creativity which brought them the title last season.

Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat of City here last season left them favourites to win the title before their end of season collapse. This time around, the Reds are gathering momentum as the season draws to a close. They have won eight and drawn three of their 11 league games since losing to Manchester United in December. It is Rodgers’s side who have the momentum and are looking a good bet to return to the Champions League this season.

“We have to concentrate on the next game and focus on the performance level,” said the manager. “Like last season, we need to finish as high as we can. If we can get into the top four, it is a bigger achievement than last season because of our starting position. We need to keep collecting the points.”

Coutinho worth big money – Rodgers

The midfielder capped a marvellous performance against Manchester City on Sunday with a sensational winning goal, leading his manager to sing his praises

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says that Philippe Coutinho is now worth a “frightening amount of money” after his sensational winner in the 2-1 win over Manchester City.

The Brazilian has been in superb form in 2015 and ran the show on Sunday as the Reds moved up to fifth in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory against the defending champions.

His thunderous second-half finish confirmed the home side’s dominance at Anfield, leading Rodgers to suggest his market value has increased significantly in recent months.

“Coutinho is a joy to watch,” the Reds boss told reporters of the 22-year-old. “He’s a kid who has so much ahead of him in the game. He’s a sensational footballer.

“He is very selfless and very humble, always creates for others. He has wonderful body movement around the edge of the box.

“He’s a star in the Premier League but there are improvements he can make. He’s a young player, playing at club that adores him.

“We bought him in for €11.7 million [in January 2013] … it’s frightening to think what he’d be worth now.”

Rodgers was delighted with the game as a whole, declaring: “It was a brilliant result and a brilliant performance. The players were relentless.”

Sterling, Coutinho and Lallana face fitness race for Tottenham clash

Two were substituted during Saturday’s Merseyside derby while the former Southampton star missed it altogether, but Brendan Rodgers hopes to have all three available on Tuesday

Liverpool will give late fitness checks to Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League game against Tottenham.

Brazilian midfielder Coutinho lasted 56 minutes of Saturday’s Merseyside derby against Everton before coming off with a knee injury, while winger Sterling was also substituted in the closing stages due to a foot problem.

Lallana was not included for the trip to Goodison Park, the former Southampton man having been troubled by a calf complaint, but manager Brendan Rodgers is hopeful that all three could be fit when Spurs visit Anfield.

“Phil Coutinho had a knock on his knee and Raheem had a knock on his foot,” Rodgers told the club’s official website.

“We had fresh players on the bench to bring on and hopefully they will be fit for Tuesday.”

On Lallana, the manager added: “We need to see how he is but he has a big possibility for Tuesday.”