'We have big objectives' – Coutinho calls for Liverpool focus in trophy hunt

The Brazilian playmaker sees the 2016-17 campaign as being ‘very important’ for the Reds, while he has hailed Jurgen Klopp as a ‘great manager’

Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho urged his team to continue pushing for their “big objectives” despite a dip in form.

Jurgen Klopp’s team are winless in four matches ahead of an FA Cup clash at Plymouth Argyle on Wednesday.

Returning from an ankle injury, Coutinho has made back-to-back appearances off the bench.

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The Brazil international called on his team, who are third in the Premier League, to remain upbeat and keep chasing success.

“We have to keep working together because the season is very long. We have big objectives to realise this season,” Coutinho told Sky Sports.

“The confidence [of a good result] brings good feeling, tells us that we have to keep working hard.

“This season promises to be very important for us and Liverpool have to keep playing well.”

Coutinho was in brilliant form prior to his injury, leading to interest from La Liga giants Barcelona.

Matip could miss five more games

The 24-year-old, however, is enjoying working under Klopp and praised the German for helping Liverpool improve.

“He is a great manager,” Coutinho said.

“He has changed the mentality in our team, we have become much stronger in defence, and we’ll keep working together.”

Coutinho's return is big for Liverpool, but Henderson is badly needed against United

The Brazil international is likely to make the Reds’ first 11 at Manchester United on Sunday, but the captain’s return would be a colossal lift


Philippe Coutinho had cut in from the left and, following a shimmy, fizzed past Guillermo Varela before flooring David de Gea with a dazzling dink from an acute angle. Old Trafford fell silent, stunned, save for the delirious away end that bounced all through the break and beyond through the haze of red smoke. 

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As the Brazilian’s chip sailed over the goalkeeper, the fight was sucked out of Manchester United; large swathes of their supporters departed with 15 minutes to spare knowing there were no designs for late drama. The hosts surrended the game 1-1 and the Europa League last-16 tie 3-1 on aggregate.

Jurgen Klopp has referenced that evening – March 17, 2016 – on several occasions, stating Coutinho’s wizardry was like a remote that shut down the opposition and turned off the noise of over 70,000 people.

That bit of invention from Liverpool’s two-time Player of the Year is one of the reasons behind the exultation felt by the club’s fans as he returned from a 46-day absence to play half an hour at Southampton. 

The minutes Coutinho was afforded after shaking off ankle ligament damage took into account this Sunday, when he’ll be back at Old Trafford for the first time since his name rung around the ground in a continuous chorus.

He is expected to start, a development that will lift the visitors and unsettle his upcoming markers as there are no question marks around the 24-year-old’s status as a match winner.

“When Phil is not playing, of course you miss his creativity and finishing and all that stuff,” Klopp said at Melwood on Friday afternoon after his assertion that any team in the world would miss a talent of his calibre.

Liverpool’s attacking play has not been as exhilarating sans Coutinho; the forward’s incision and improvisation has been missed as well as his telepathy with Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana.

His chance creation, dribbles, assists and goals are complemented by his defending from the front – tackles and ball recoveries to match the magic.

“I know everybody misses Phil, of course, but especially because the role he played it was very often like a central midfielder, or like a No. 8, when he came in the middle,” Klopp said ahead of his side’s 3-0 victory at Middlesbrough.

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“That means when we misplace a pass from there and we lose the ball, then we already have a formation for counter-press and things like this.

“Now we have too many players in the first line, we still create chances with this but it is of course a little bit too risky.”

With Sadio Mane on duty at the African Nations Cup, Coutinho’s comeback has been nicely timed to sprinkle some luminosity and lethalness back into the final third for Liverpool.

His speed of thought and ability to play the game in the future can help circumvent the loss of pace and directness during the Senegal international’s absence.

While Coutinho’s availability is undoubtedly colossal for the Merseysiders, fingers and all else will need to be crossed for Jordan Henderson to line up from the off.

The captain, who was substituted off in the 1-0 victory over Manchester City with a heel problem, is quite simply the power button for Liverpool’s machine.

He provides the platform that allows them to dominate games in and out of possession, is the orchestrator when they’re on the front foot, and the organiser when the ball is ceded. Henderson sets the tempo and sweeps up. 

He switches play and snuffs out the opposition’s threats. Emre Can and Lucas have both found it difficult to deputise for the England international in the No.6 position, unable to equal his proactiveness, energy and influence. 

There is justified sentiment that Liverpool’s chances of winning on Sunday will be drastically reduced if the skipper cannot be his side’s metronome.

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It would be an added bonus if Joel Matip is given the all clear to feature, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to be the focal point for aerial bombardments from United.

The free signing from Schalke has been a revelation in the Reds’ rearguard, but a troublesome ankle has seen him clock just 14 starts in all competitions. 

The 25-year-old has resumed full training and like Henderson, will be pushing beyond any pain and such for a place on the teamsheet. 

While Klopp has made the collective the champion at Liverpool, to be without so many key individuals simultaneously can be debilitating.

Aside from their own contributions, the knock-on effect on the system and the changing roles of others as a consequence has seen the Anfield outfit lose some of their early season shimmer.

Liverpool, in truth, have done well to keep pace with league-leading Chelsea despite their multiple setbacks. Being robbed of Coutinho, Mane, Henderson and Matip at the same time would be akin to Antonio Conte not being able to summon the powers of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and David Luiz for fixtures.

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Or Tottenham to go without Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Cristian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen. What of Arsenal minus Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech and Hector Bellerin?

Would United be as daunting a prospect on Sunday without their Swedish superstar, Paul Pogba, De Gea and Henrikh Mkhitaryan? 

Unquestionably, Jose Mourinho will be happier if the opposition XI does not include Coutinho, Matip or Henderson this weekend.

Klopp hopefully won’t have to give him that satisfaction ahead of kick off. 

'He's our player!' – Klopp issues hands off warning to Barcelona amid Coutinho interest

Nothing has changed when it comes to the Brazilian for the Red boss, with the manager ruling out a move to Camp Nou

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp dismissed Barcelona’s reported interest in Philippe Coutinho, insisting he still has no plans to sell the star midfielder.

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The Brazil international is set to make his return from an ankle injury when his side face Southampton in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

Coutinho’s stellar form has seen him linked with a potential £60 million move to Barca, but Klopp said the 24-year-old would remain at Anfield.

“We never had any ideas or plans or any talks about him leaving, because he is our player,” he told UK newspapers.

“There are no other ideas, nothing has changed.”

Coutinho was enjoying an excellent campaign before his injury, contributing five goals and as many assists in 13 Premier League games.

Klopp said there was no chance of a club like Barca cooling their interest in Coutinho just because of a slight injury setback.

“It would be nice if big clubs thought like this and forgot about a player completely because he’s been injured for five or six weeks,” he said.

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“Big clubs don’t think this way, unfortunately. It was not a big injury so there was no question of him not being the same player afterwards.”

After facing Southampton, Liverpool head to Old Trafford for a league clash against Manchester United on Sunday.

Coutinho 'fit for Liverpool squad' as Henderson nears comeback

Having completed three sessions with another due before the trip to St Mary’s, the Reds could include the 24-year-old on their teamsheet, while the skipper edges closer to a return

Jurgen Klopp revealed Philippe Coutinho is fit enough to make Liverpool’s matchday squad for the League Cup semi-final test at Southampton, with captain Jordan Henderson hoping to return to team training by the end of the week.

The Brazil international, who sat out the club’s past nine fixtures due to ankle ligament damage, is on course to end his spell out in the first-leg clash on Wednesday.

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Having completed three sessions, with another pencilled in before the trip to St Mary’s, Klopp feels the 24-year-old has done enough to possibly be named on the teamsheet.

Ahead of Sunday’s top-flight showdown with Manchester United, Coutinho could even be afforded a cameo, depending on how the contest against Southampton shapes up.

“I think Phil is fit enough to be part of the squad,” the Reds boss said at Melwood on Monday afternoon.

“That means that it could be minutes, but it depends on the game, of course. 

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“He’s in a very good way. It was six or seven weeks [of being injured], something like that, which is long. 

“He needs minutes in training especially, but then, of course, as soon as possible minutes in games. 

“We will see how we do it – there’s no final decision made now. I think today was the third complete session he did with the team, so tomorrow will be the fourth. 

“It’s not that many, but for being in the squad, I think it’s enough, so we will see.”

Henderson, meanwhile, is nursing a heel complaint and is targeting a return to team training on Thursday. 

“Hendo is in a very good way because he’s really a mentally strong guy,” added Klopp.

“It’s still painful I think, but he’s doing well so we will see what we can do with him. 

“Hopefully [he’ll be involved in] Thursday’s team training.”

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There was further good news with James Milner having “no issues anymore” with a calf problem.

And Joel Matip, shaking off a troublesome ankle, “took his first steps, if you want, in team training”.

Loris Karius, meanwhile, is expected to continue between the sticks. 

The goalkeeper made his first start since December 11 in Sunday’s goalless FA Cup draw with Plymouth after being taken out of the firing line. 

“No final decision until now, but it’s pretty likely that Loris will play again,” said Klopp.

“It makes sense and it’s a fair response to training performances. It’s likely, not sure.”

Coutinho in line to return for Liverpool's showdown with Man Utd

The forward is not expected to play against Plymouth and is unlikely to make the trip to Southampton but is set to return for the blockbuster meeting at Old Trafford

Philippe Coutinho’s recovery from ankle ligament damage is progressing well, with Liverpool anticipating that the Brazilian will feature against Manchester United on January 15.

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Jurgen Klopp revealed on Friday that the 24-year-old, who has been sidelined for the past eight games, is “on a very good way” but will not be in contention for Sunday’s FA Cup third-round match against Plymouth. 

He is also unlikely to be risked for the midweek trip to Southampton for the League Cup semi-final.

Joel Matip, who is nursing a troublesome left ankle, received the same prognosis as Coutinho. The centre-back is hoping to return to full training shortly.

Daniel Sturridge, meanwhile, has not had a session since limping off in the 2-2 draw with Sunderland. 

The England international, who had scored at the Stadium of Light during his first league start in 77 days, was withdrawn after taking a knock to his right ankle.

“He didn’t train until now – for no foul!” said Klopp.

“He will probably train today. It depends on how he feels, but it should be possible.”

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James Milner is also set to sit out the Plymouth game, with Klopp admitting that “rotation makes sense” given the exacting nature of the previous three fixtures in short succession.

“We were lucky that we didn’t have any proper injuries after the game so that’s all good,” the Reds boss explained.

“Milly had a little issue with his calf – we weren’t sure whether it was more because of the intensity but I’m pretty sure we will not take a risk with him for the weekend.”

Jordan Henderson, dealing with pain in his heel, will also not be involved.

Coutinho beats Neymar to be named best Brazilian player in Europe

The Liverpool playmaker has followed in the footsteps of Kaka, Thiago Silva and Neymar in landing the prestigious prize

Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho has landed the 2016 Samba Gold award as the best Brazilian player in Europe.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a productive calendar year for club and country, and has now seen those efforts recognised with a prestigious prize.

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Past winners of the award include former World Player of the Year Kaka, Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva and Barcelona superstar Neymar.

Coutinho is clearly in good company, with the likes of Luis Fabiano and Maicon also on the roll of honour.

Prior to picking up an untimely ankle injury, the Liverpool forward had netted 13 times for the Reds in 2016, while also finding the target for Brazil against Argentina, Bolivia and Haiti.

He topped the Samba Gold award poll of journalists, current and ex-professionals with 32.13 per cent of the vote.

Liverpool will be hoping it is the first of many accolades heading Coutinho’s way, with Jurgen Klopp having recently admitted that the South American has taken another positive step forward in his career this year.

He told the Liverpool Echo: “In 2016 he has made the next step for sure. He has been very consistent. I think our style of play fits really well with him.

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“We had a few talks about it. Of course, with Phil’s skills, everyone wants to give him the ball and wait for something special to happen.

“Then you think ‘oh no, don’t shoot again’. But if I could shoot like he could shoot then I would try it all the time.

“It’s outstanding how good he is.”

Coutinho had been hoping to make his return to action against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, but Klopp has revealed that he is not yet in a position to hand his key creative cog a recall.

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He has also suggested that a meeting with Sunderland on January 2 will come too soon for a man working his way back from ligament damage.

Liverpool take in a FA Cup clash with Plymouth and an EFL Cup semi-final date with Southampton after facing the Black Cats, before returning to Premier League action against Manchester United at Old Trafford on January 15.

Ronaldinho: Barcelona are watching Coutinho

The former Brazil international has revealed that the Catalan club are paying close attention to the Liverpool attacker

Ronaldinho has claimed that former club Barcelona are watching Philippe Coutinho, and have ‘a lot of admiration’ for the Liverpool star.

The Brazilian, who lined out for the Catalan giants between 2003 and 2008 is currently a club ambassador for Barcelona, and believes Luis Enrique’s side are interested in the 24-year-old.

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Coutinho is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, but is due to return in the next few weeks. He had been in excellent form for Jurgen Klopp’s side before his injury, scoring five goals in 13 Premier League games this season.

Ronaldinho has backed him to pick up from where he left off when he returns, and believes he will continue to be monitored by Barcelona if he can keep impressing.

“I hope when he returns from injury that he will continue the form he has been showing all season with Liverpool,” the 36-year-old told the Sun.

“He has been one of the stand out players in Europe this season – and I know there is a lot of admiration of him at Barcelona.

“Liverpool will want to keep him, they have built the team around him.

“But when you play at that level then there is always interest.”

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Coutinho has previously been linked with a move to Barcelona, where midfielder Xavi has indicated his desire to play alongside the Brazil international.

“When you play at the level he is there is always going to be talk, but for now he needs to ignore all that and stay focused, because I think Liverpool have a real chance this season.,” Xavi told Goal.

“There are not many players that can improve Barcelona, but if you are asking me if he is one of them, on this form, I think he is. Technically he is very good. He would suit Barcelona’s philosophy well.”

Coutinho 'unlikely' to line up for Liverpool against Man City on New Year’s Eve

The attacker may not recover in time to face Pep Guardiola’s side in the final game of 2016, but remains “in a good way” as he nurses an ankle injury

Jurgen Klopp has revealed Liverpool will not rush Philippe Coutinho’s rehabilitation, with the Brazilian unlikely to feature against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve at Anfield. 

The 24-year-old marked the showdown on December 31 as his dream return date from the ankle injury he sustained in the 2-0 win over Sunderland a month ago.

Coutinho is still training alone, though, and Klopp explained that the player’s recovery programme needed to be “cooled down” due to an averse reaction in the problem area. 

However, the Reds boss believes he is still “in a good way” with his treatment.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have him back in training,” Klopp explained.

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“He makes his training – that’s a big difference. Until we have him in [group] training, there’s absolutely no reason to think about when he is back.

“We cannot rush the situation and we don’t want to rush it. We have to accept the more or less bigger steps in his improvement with this serious injury.

“It was not [just] ‘something’. It was a decent injury and is still, so we need to wait.

“Whenever he is back, the season is long enough that he can help us. We cannot rush it just because there are a few games now. That cannot have an influence on our decisions.

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“A rehab with a professional football player is always on the edge,” Klopp added as he detailed Coutinho’s ups and downs in recovery.

“We cannot say if we do nothing it will take 10 days, and if we try something it will maybe be seven days or 12 if it’s too much.

“Medicine is a lot about experience and all the players are different. He was on a very good way then it was a little bit more difficult, because of a reaction in the ankle, and we had to cool down the situation a little bit. But he is still on a good way.

“I don’t think it will be, from this moment on, long-term still. But the game everybody is dreaming of, the City game for example – it was clear from the first second that this would be really unlikely, but it was the dream of Phil. So try to do it.

“In this moment, it’s not more likely than before but I don’t want to say it’s not possible. We have to see.”

Liverpool – who are currently second in the Premier League – take on Stoke on Boxing Day before playing host to Pep Guardiola’s side.

The class of 2016: Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho ready to lead Brazil's future

The trio have the led the Selecao’s resurgence under new coach Tite and look primed to play a huge role in the long-term future of the five-time world champions

2016 was a year of extremes for Brazil. 

After a worrying first half of the year, the Selecao went on a remarkable resurgence following the June appointment of new coach Tite, racing to six consecutive World Cup qualifying victories that totally transformed the domestic and international perception of the five-time world champions.

Neymar had faced criticism from a disappointed local support, particularly for his propensity to pick up needless cards that earned him costly suspensions.

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However, the Barcelona fans most certainly won back the doubters with his performances as he led Brazil to their first ever Olympic gold medal.

And, since August’s Rio games, his form for the senior team has improved greatly in a considerably more functional and cohesive team under the new boss.

And he had one hell of a supporting cast. For the first time since 2011, the Selecao ended a calendar year with Neymar’s name absent from the top of their scoring charts.

Instead, that accolade was shared between the two who have joined him up top to create a front-three Brazilian are confident can lead them into a very bright future.

Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho both won places in the first XI under Tite, and responded with five goals each to share the honour of top marksman for 2016.

The decision to deploy future Manchester City starlet Gabriel Jesus as a central striker raised some eyebrows in his homeland, but it instantly paid dividends as the Palmeiras wonderkid won a penalty before scoring twice on his debut to see off Ecuador 3-0 in Quito.

He went on to hit three more in his next five matches. Meanwhile, Philippe Coutinho, so long the bridesmaid of the Selecao, fought his way into the team at the expense of the remarkably consistent Willian.

Two of those goals arrived in the qualifiers: one against Argentina in the Mineirao and another against Bolivia in early October. 

The other three had been scored in the group stage of the Copa America Centenario, all in the 7-1 win over Haiti that eventually led to a disappointing second-round exit at the hands of Peru.

The Liverpool man has gone from the periphery to forming the fulcrum of Tite’s new-look Brazil.

And for the first time since ‘the 7-1’, the whole of Brazil are united behind a team they once again believe in. 

And with Neymar and Coutinho just 24-years-old, and Gabriel Jesus a teenager at 19, the future looks bright for Brazil and their tremendous trio.

'No idea when he'll be ready' – Klopp not rushing Coutinho comeback

The Liverpool manager insists he will not be forcing the Brazilian playmaker back into the fold as the Reds star targets a return against Manchester City

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is optimistic about Philippe Coutinho’s recovery, but has stressed he will not rush the Brazil international’s return to action.

Coutinho has been sidelined since sustaining an ankle injury in the 2-0 home win over Sunderland on November 26.

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The 24-year-old revealed this week that he could make his comeback in Liverpool’s home game against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, but Klopp has made it clear he has no intention of taking any risks with his star player.

“We will have to see when he returns. No idea at the moment. I never rush a player back,” Klopp told reporters.

“I am the most patient person in Liverpool. I always wait for someone. I cannot rush it.

“It would be cool if he returns against City. I will not stop him.

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“In this moment he is improving a lot. He is off his crutches since the West Ham game, when we left the stadium he was walking in front without them.”

Coutinho has scored five goals in 13 Premier League outings this campaign.