TEAM NEWS: Sturridge fails to recover from hamstring injury but Coutinho makes the bench for Liverpool against West Brom

The England international has had his impressive start to his Anfield career halted by injury, however the Reds will be hoping to keep up their home form despite his abscence

Daniel Sturridge has failed to recover from a hamstring injury as Liverpool host West Brom, but new signing Coutinho could make his debut from the bench.

The Reds are in a rich vein of form at Anfield and will be hoping to inflict another blow to the Baggies who are without a win in their last eight games in all competitions.

Jonjo Shelvey replaces the injured Sturridge in the only change to Brendan Rodgers’ team from the one that drew 2-2 to Manchester City.

New signing Coutinho could also be poised to make his first team debut for the club, albeit from the bench, with the Anfield faithful hoping the Brazil international will be able to add some more creativity to the Liverpool midfield.

Steve Clark makes two changes to his side, with Liam Ridgewell replacing the suspended Goran Popov, who received a red card in the defeat to Tottenham after spitting towards Kyle Walker, while Youssouf Mulumbu comes in for Romelu Lukaku, who drops to the bench.

The visitors are yet to win a game in 2013 and they will be hoping they can put in a good performance against a Liverpool side looking to keep pace with its top four competitors.

Liverpool starting XI:
Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Suarez, Shelvey, Downing
Subs: Jones, Wisdom, Skrtel, Allen, Borini, Sterling, Coutinho

West Brom starting XI: Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Mulumbu, Yacob, Dorrans, Morrison, Brunt, Long.
Subs: Myhill, Lukaku, Fortune, Jones, Rosenberg, Tamas, Thomas

Rodgers hopes Coutinho arrival will add competition for places

The Liverpool coach insists that he is unlikely to rush in the young Brazillian into the Liverpool starting XI following his arrival from Inter in January for €10 million

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that the arrival of Philippe Coutinho will add valuable competition for places at the Merseyside club.

The Brazillian youngster arrived from Inter for a reported £8.5 million fee late in the January transfer window but he has only just been able to begin training with the Reds.

Rodgers was keen to praise the form of the players that have collected draws against Arsenal and Manchester City but hoped that the likes of Coutinho would press them for their positions in the starting XI.

“He’s a top young player with big experiences and bringing him into the group adds that competition,” Rodgers told reporters ahead of Liverpool’s Monday night clash against West Brom.

“There’s no doubt that the team who have been involved in the last couple of games have been exceptional but it’s very important that we’ve got players in the side who are fighting to get into the team.”

The club’s other high profile signing in January, Daniel Sturridge, made his debut in the FA Cup only a few days after being signed from fellow Premier League club Chelsea, but Rodgers insists he will not rush Coutinho after a recent injury.

“He’s a young player I’ve got very high hopes for but Daniel was ready to come in and play – we’ll see how young Philippe goes,” he added.

“He was with the medical team with Milan and he has come here and we have assessed where he is in terms of his fitness.

“He trained with the group on Friday and we’ll observe him and see where he’s at but competition for places is what we want, that was the whole idea of bringing him in.

“The key for us has always been to build a competitive squad that would enable us to challenge. That will keep us going and allowing us to develop.”

Liverpool new-boy Coutinho is a 'proper Brazilian', says Lucas

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has hailed the club’s latest signing Philippe Coutinho, describing his compatriot as “a proper Brazilian”.

The 20-year-old, who has been capped once by Brazil at senior level, completed an €10 million move from Inter to Anfield on Wednesday.

And, despite the youngster failing to truly establish himself in Serie A, Lucas expects Coutinho to prove a hit for the Merseyside club both now and in the future.

“Coutinho is a very talented player,” he told reporters. “He is very young but he has a lot of experience already.

“I had the chance to watch him when he got his first cap for Brazil a couple of years ago as we were both in the team.

“He is a proper Brazilian with a lot of skill and he likes to play with the ball and score goals. He had a very good spell at Espanyol when he was on loan last season and I think he will be a great player for the future for us.”

The former Gremio star also expressed his belief that Coutinho will be able to deal with the added physicality of the Premier League.

“I think he will be able to cope,” the 26-year-old continued. “Of course in Italy it’s a different type of game but he has experience of playing in both Serie A and La Liga.

“We hope he settles very quickly. Hopefully he will feel comfortable and play really well for us.”

Lucas went on to reveal that manager Brendan Rodgers had asked him for his thoughts on the player prior to proceeding with the transfer.

“The manager spoke with me but not to ask about his talents as I think he was sure about that already,” he added. “He just wanted to know what I knew about Coutinho as a person. I only had positive things to say.

“Then I spoke with Coutinho a few times. Not to try to convince him to come here but just to tell him about the club and how things work here.

“He felt it was a great opportunity for him to come to the Premier League and we’re happy to have him here. I know he doesn’t speak much English so I will try to help as much as I can to make him feel at home.

“We have Luis, Coates and myself here. We will all try to make him feel really comfortable. We’ll make sure he settles very quickly like Luis and Coates and is able to show his qualities.”

From wonderkid to unwanted goods – what went wrong for Coutinho at Inter?

By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer

Inter were not always of the belief that Philippe Coutinho was better off away from San Siro. Back in 2008, he was seen as a huge coup when the Nerazzurri landed his signature at the age of just 16 for a €3.5 million fee. Yet now, the Brazilian is headed for the Premier League and Liverpool with the Italian club’s best wishes.

Although they could not make use of their new signing until he turned 18, there was a great deal of satisfaction around Appiano Gentile when Inter persuaded Vasco da Gama to part with his economic rights two years before his eventual move to Europe. Coutinho had developed such a reputation while making his way through the Vasco youth ranks that it was seen in no way as a gamble, despite his age and the fact they would have to wait 24 months before he could pull on the blue and black in a competitive fixture.

But things have not exactly gone to plan since Coutinho arrived in Italy, with Inter going as far as to persuade the player that a move away from the club is for the best as they looked to cash in on the €11m Liverpool offered.

After a promising initial spell in Rafael Benitez’s six-month reign, the 20-year-old has found it difficult to find a regular spot in the side. Even under the Spaniard, the attacking midfielder was regularly forced to play on the left of a 4-2-3-1 simply to get into the team, but things have only grown more difficult for him under the subsequent coaching spells of Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri and Andrea Stramaccioni. There have been occasional sights of a first-team shirt, but not since Benitez was in charge has Coutinho started more than two league fixtures in succession.

TWO DIFFERENT PLAYERS | Coutinho since 2010

Sergio Chesi, Italy’s deputy editor, explains why things have not worked out for Countinho in a Nerazzurri shirt.

“Coutinho has been unlucky at Inter, for many reasons,” explains Sergio. “The first is because he arrived immediately after the club had won the treble, when they began going through the difficulties they are still experiencing to this day. It was hard for a youngster to find himself thrust into such a problematic situation.

“Not since Benitez was in charge has Coutinho started more than two league fixtures in succession

“Then there were the frequent physical problems he suffered, showing certain limitations as he grew, and also the fact he never really gave the impression that he had the personality to make the difference at the very highest levels, nor the physical attributes to have a say in the Italian championship. Personally, I am amazed that Liverpool are spending such a sum of money on a player who has offered so little in Serie A.”

So why are the Reds taking such a gamble? Well, during his loan spell with Espanyol in the second half of the 2011-12 season, Coutinho revelled in the freedom he was given, attracting a whole host of great reviews in the process. The only fixture in which he did not feature during his spell in Barcelona was one for which he was suspended after seeing red against Osasuna. Such was his form in the blue and white shirt, he scored more goals in four months in Spain than he has during his entire spell with Inter.

That stat is less surprising when you look at the fact he started 14 league games for the Periquitos compared to 15 in two-and-a-half years at San Siro. Given the chance to prove himself over a long period, Coutinho spread his wings and made a real impression. It is an unavoidable fact that the Brazilian has not produced any kind of consistency at Inter, but how can he be expected to do so when he has not been picked with any consistency either?

It is often said of skillful players that teams can struggle to locate them a spot in which they can truly show their best football, and that has never been more true than in the case of Inter and Coutinho. A player of undoubted qualities on the ball, great pace, a sure eye for a pass and impressive composure for a youngster, he is the latest talent to be lost at the Nerazzurri.

And if he excels on Merseyside, then a succession of Inter coaches past and present may well be left to answer a few difficult questions as to why he was not given the chance to show just how good he can be.

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Liverpool complete €13.7 million Coutinho signing

Liverpool have completed the signing of 20-year-old Inter midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazil international joined the Serie A side from Vasco da Gama in 2010, and spent the second half of last season on loan at Spanish side Espanyol.
The Premier League side agreed an €13.7 million transfer fee with Inter after seeing their initial bid of €7.5m rejected.

Coutinho becomes the Reds’ second signing of the January transfer window after the move to sign Daniel Sturridge, with only one day remaining to complete any other deals.

Southampton were also interested in the playmaker following his work with new Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino at Espanyol, but Coutinho made his preference to sign for Liverpool clear.

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre added: “We’re always delighted when we get the players we go after.

“It has been a successful transfer window for us, coming off the back of acquiring Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and now Philippe from Inter Milan.

“I think that bodes well for us for the rest of the season and the future.”

Coutinho will wear the No.10 shirt.

Coutinho in Liverpool to tie up €13m transfer

By David Lynch

Liverpool are set to tie up the €13.6 million signing of Philippe Coutinho from Inter after the attacker arrived on Merseyside on Tuesday to complete the deal.

The 20-year-old has agreed personal terms with the Anfield club and will be officially unveiled after securing a work permit and completing paperwork.

The Brazilian was pictured with his new club’s shirt on Tuesday evening having stopped to sign it for a supporter.

Coutinho, who has one senior Brazil cap, has made just five Serie A appearances so far this term after finding himself down the pecking order upon his return from last season’s loan spell with Espanyol.

Inter president Massimo Moratti recently described the midfielder’s move to Anfield as a “great opportunity” for him to gain more playing time.

He is set to become Liverpool’s second signing of January following the arrival of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea.

Rodgers confirms talks over Inter starlet Coutinho

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed the club are in talks to sign Inter starlet Philippe Coutinho. confirmed over the weekend that the Reds have agreed an £11.7 million fee with the Nerazzurri for the Brazilian playmaker, although Rodgers was keen to stress that the deal is a long way from being completed.

“There’s been talks between the clubs but that’s about it, so nothing to report,” the Northern Irishman told reporters.

Rodgers saw his side dumped out of the FA Cup at the hands of League One side Oldham on Sunday, but he dismissed claims that such a defeat meant he would have to bring new players in, instead claiming that it could be used to improve the players he already has.

“It was very disappointing yesterday,” he admitted.

“There’s no doubt, and I know it’s a part of the growing pains that we have in terms of going forward but it’s something that we’re fully aware of and we know in this window it’s never going to be fulfilled.

“It was another marker in the fact that we want to develop the group and improve the group and that’s something I’m sure we’ll deal with in the coming windows.”

Liverpool move a 'great opportunity' for Coutinho, says Moratti

Inter president Massimo Moratti believes Philippe Coutinho’s imminent transfer to Liverpool is the best result for all parties.

The 20-year-old has found his opportunities at the San Siro limited so far this season, but is expected to complete an €13.7 million move to Anfield early next week.

And Moratti has insisted that a switch to the Premier League will be good for the Brazilian’s development.

“There are certain opportunities that should be taken,” he told reporters. “Sometimes players are able to get more playing time, and so I think it could be a great opportunity for Coutinho and a deal that might work out well for us.”

The Italian went on to admit that Inter’s pursuit of Corinthians midfielder Paulinho is stalling due to the Brazilian club’s asking price.

“Does Paulinho cost too much, or is it something that could actually come to fruition? There’s no doubt that he costs too much,” he continued.

“Whether it could come to fruition is something we’ll see in the next few days.”

However, one player who will definitely not be moving to Inter this January is wantaway Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.

When asked whether his club might make a late swoop, Moratti simply replied: “No.”

'Skilful Coutinho could be perfect for the Premier League' – everything you need to know about Inter's Liverpool transfer target

By Chris Myson & Matt Scott

Liverpool have been expected to bolster their ranks further in January and after the signing of Daniel Sturridge, Inter starlet Philippe Coutinho is on the brink of becoming the next arrival at Anfield.

Coutinho came through the youth system of Brazilian heavyweights Vasco da Gama, a club he initially joined at just seven years of age.

Before he even made his debut for the club, the playmaker was already making waves. His exceptional performances in the youth team and internationally for Brazil Under-16 and 17s ensured he was quickly developing an impressive reputation.

Real Madrid were amongst the big European clubs who circled for his signature, although it was Inter who eventually won the race, paying €4.2 million for the then 16-year-old in 2008.


v Iran Oct 7 2010

The Serie A club allowed him to stay with Vasco da Gama on loan until he turned 18 in 2010, when they made his transfer official and brought him to San Siro.

By that point he had played over two seasons for the first team at his boyhood club, in the second campaign becoming a regular and important contributor to the side.

He spent an initial 18 months in and around the Inter squad, making his debut in the Uefa Super Cup defeat to Atletico Madrid, although he never really established himself as a first-team regular.

“Coutinho has always impressed with his technical qualities, but he’s always been considered too inexperienced to make a real mark during his time in Italian football,” explains Italy’s Maurizio Piano.

“That means a lot of his most brilliant performances have come during friendly matches in pre-season. In senior games, he didn’t get picked to play too often and, when he did, it tended to be from the substitutes’ bench.”

For the second half of the 2011-12 season, Coutinho was loaned to La Liga outfit Espanyol and he impressed under Mauricio Pochettino, now manager of Southampton.

He played 16 matches as he helped the Catalan club to a mid-table finish and scored five times, two of which were particularly spectacular efforts – a free kick against Malaga and a volley against Racing Santander.

Since returning from Spain, Coutinho would have hoped to improve his fortunes with Inter on the back of the confidence gained in La Liga, but most recently, an injury has also hindered his progress as he tries to force his way into the team.

Now, despite the player’s stated wish to remain at Inter, it seems the club are determined to move him on, as they have done with Wesley Sneijder, to raise funds for new pursuits in the market.

Maurizio added: “Coutinho has never really been seen as a certain starter for Inter. Now, the Nerazzurri need money to try and buy Paulinho from Corinthians.

“Just like Ricky Alvarez, Coutinho is seen as one of the expendable players Inter are prepared to sell in order to raise money that allows them to buy in this transfer window.”

The Reds have been in the market for an attacking midfielder this month after allowing Nuri Sahin to leave Merseyside and rejoin his former club Dortmund, the Turkey international having failed to make an impact at Anfield.

Wesley Sneijder was a Liverpool target until the Netherlands playmaker chose to leave Inter for Galatasaray.

The 28-year-old was thought to be holding out for an offer from the Premier League, but could not be persuaded to wait for an offer from Anfield and joined the Turkish giants in a €7.5 million deal.

Where Sneijder is a pass-master, Coutinho is a completely different kind of player, but is not lacking the kind of creative spark that saw the Dutchman regarded so highly.

The Brazilian has often found himself lining up on the left-hand side at Inter and Espanyol, a position that has been rotated between youngsters Raheem Sterling and Suso at Anfield for much of this term.

Possessing a lightning-quick burst of speed, but typically South American close-control, Coutinho is a flair player who will not think twice when taking a man on, with a penchant for lobbing his man.

When cutting inside on to his right foot, the 20-year-old is an accurate finisher; indeed, his return of 15 goals from 96 career games is impressive for a youngster who has featured in a wide role in most of those appearances.

With the teenaged Sterling feeling signs of burn-out after a whirlwind introduction to the Premier League, and Suso seeming to lack the speed required for the top-flight, Coutinho could be a happy medium between the two.

Maurizio certainly feels he could be a success story at Anfield if the deal goes ahead, saying: “Even if at Inter he has been used at times as a midfielder, he really is more like an attacking midfielder or even outright attacker.

“He may not be particularly physically strong but he is certainly fast and agile. He has good vision, strong dribbling skills and can certainly be a prolific creator of chances. I think he could do well in the Premier League, since he is quick and has great skills.”

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Liverpool agree €13m deal for Inter starlet Coutinho

By Greg Stobart

Liverpool are closing in on the signing of Philippe Coutinho after agreeing a €13.7 million deal with Inter for the midfielder, can confirm.

Coutinho is due to travel to Merseyside in the coming days to discuss personal terms and undergo a medical ahead of the move.

Liverpool faced competition from Southampton for the Brazilian but appear to have got their man after an Anfield delegation flew to Italy this week to negotiate the transfer.

The Reds have increased their initial €7.6m bid for Coutinho and the 20-year-old is understood to have made clear his preference to move to Anfield.

Coutinho played under new Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino while on loan at Espanyol last season but Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been determined to improve his squad as he targets a top four finish.

The Reds signed Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea at the start of the month in a €14m deal and are also hoping to conclude a move for Blackpool midfielder Tom Ince before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

They will have to apply for a work permit before Coutinho’s proposed transfer can be concluded but that is regarded as a formality for the versatile playmaker, who has been capped once for Brazil.

Inter’s financial circumstances have meant they have actively encouraged Liverpool’s interest in Coutinho this month, despite selling Wesley Sneijder to Galatasaray, as the Serie A giants line up a move for Corinthians star Paulinho.

Coutinho signed for Inter from Vasco da Gama when he was 16, though he spent a further two years at the Brazilian club before moving to Italy. Coutinho had a productive spell on loan at Espanyol in the second half of last season before returning in the summer to Inter.

Despite starting only three of the club’s Serie A matches this season – and making 10 league appearances in total – Coutinho is regarded as an emerging star.

Speaking to Sky Italia earlier this week about Liverpool’s interest, he said: “The Liverpool offer? I’m happy with these offers, because it means I am doing my job well.

“But I think Inter have faith in me and I want to show my value here. I don’t feel that I’m on my way out. I hope to stay at Inter. The young players feel the faith of the coach and of the club.”