Premier League Team of the Week: Hat-trick heroes Kagawa & Suarez star

Philippe Coutinho & Pepe Reina also feature after Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Wigan, while Tottenham centre-back Jan Vertonghen returns to the side after north London derby victory

Hat-trick heroes Shinji Kagawa and Luis Suarez both star in our TOTW, after they helped Manchester United and Liverpool ease to respective 4-0 wins over Norwich and Wigan.

Japan international Kagawa enjoyed a superb afternoon at Old Trafford, with his treble helping the Red Devils maintain their healthy cushion at the top of the Premier League table.

Suarez’s three-goal return increased his tally to 21 for the season, and he is joined in our XI by fellow Reds Pepe Reina and Philippe Coutinho, with the young Brazilian setting up his side’s first two goals of the evening at the DW Stadium.

Manchester City pair Carlos Tevez and Kolo Toure both make the cut following Monday’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa, while Everton forward Kevin Mirallas completes our forward line. Fellow Toffees Steven Pienaar, Marouane Fellaini and Seamus Coleman are all unfortunate to miss out after their 3-1 win over Reading.

Jan Vertonghen’s excellent performance in Tottenham’s 2-1 north London derby victory over Arsenal sees the Belgian return to our TOTW to make his seventh appearance this season, and he is joined by Newcastle centre-back Steven Taylor, who makes the cut despite the 1-0 loss away to Swansea.

Sunderland’s Stephane Sessegnon features after inspiring his side to a comeback 2-2 draw at home to Fulham, while Mohamed Diame rounds off this week’s XI following his display in West Ham’s 1-0 win at Stoke.

Goalkeeper’s Ben Foster and Brad Guzan both just fail to make the grade this week, while there is no place for Loic Remy despite his goal in QPR’s vital 2-1 win at Southampton.

Liverpool starlet Coutinho unruffled by physical Premier League

The young attacking midfielder explains his decision to join from Inter and insists that he will ‘get up, carry on playing and score a goal’ if subjected to heavy challenges

New Liverpool signing Philippe Coutinho insists that he is not worried by the physicality of the Premier League.

The attacking midfielder, a January acquisition from Inter, says that he is resilient enough to bounce back from tough tackles and succeed.


“I’m quite calm about getting kicked,” he told the Daily Mirror. “I’ll get up, carry on playing and score a goal.

“I always knew the type of football here would be much harder but, with the help of the manager, staff and players, I’ll try to adapt as quickly as possible.

“Of course, playing here will be a challenge. I know everyone says it is the toughest league in the world and I’ve already noticed you have to think quicker and move quicker because the pace is that much higher than Italy or Brazil.

“I know I need to improve my muscles because they are quite small at the moment.”

The Brazilian admits his frustration that he could not break through at the San Siro but enthuses that, with a little help from Lucas Leiva, joining the Reds was an easy choice.

“Sometimes I was disappointed because every player wants to play. I always did my best for Inter but it didn’t work out,” he continued. “I need to spend some time at a club and I need to enjoy my football to play my best.

“Lucas spoke to me. He explained the methods here. I knew Liverpool was a huge team so the decision was made quite quickly on this basis.

“Liverpool is known around the world for being a huge club for all the titles they have won; the one that comes to mind is in the Champions League final in 2005 when they turned the game around.

“Hopefully I will have a long and successful career at Liverpool. That is what I’m hoping for.”

Lucas: Coutinho can be a Liverpool great

The Brazilian midfielder feels that his countryman can take the Premier League by storm at Anfield if he is given enough time to adapt to the pace after arriving from Italy

Lucas Leiva believes that Philippe Coutinho can be a Liverpool star once he is given time to adapt to the pace of the Premier League.

The youngster completed his move to Anfield from Inter in January and found the back of the net on his full debut in the 5-0 rout of Swansea City on Sunday.

Lucas expects that the 20-year-old’s eye-catching display will prove to be just a taste of what his compatriot is capable of producing at Anfield in the years to come, although he stresses the importance of giving the South American time to adapt to his new surroundings.

“I’m really happy for him,” the Reds star told the club’s official website. “We were talking about the pace of the Premier League and even with the training sessions he has found it is much quicker than in Italy.

“He will need time to settle but that goal will give him confidence. We could see a lot of positive things from him against Swansea. Hopefully he will be a great player for now and for the future as he’s only 20 but he will need time.

“Every single young player who comes to the Premier League finds it difficult when they first come. It will be the same for him.”

Lucas revealed how he had played a part in convincing Coutinho to come to Anfield and how he is now helping him settle in, adding: “I’ve told him about how he will be successful here. He is trying to adapt and play quick because he knows he needs that tempo to be successful.

“He has the skills and the ability to do well. We just need to support and help him.”

Coutinho and Sturridge provide hope that aimless Liverpool transfer strategy may be finished

The two new signings were impressive in the Reds’ 5-0 demolition of Swansea on Sunday and could represent the first successful buys since their recent decline

By David Lynch

Brendan Rodgers could hardly conceal his delight having seen Liverpool bookend what he described as a “bumpy” week with a 5-0 win over Swansea on Sunday afternoon.

The Reds went into the game having suffered back-to-back 2-0 defeats to West Brom and Zenit St Petersburg which have severely harmed their hopes of a top-four finish and Europa League success. This was a seven days which threatened to define the Northern Irishman’s indifferent start to life in charge at Anfield, or potentially even bring it to a premature end.

But it was not only the positive result and undeniably improved performance which marked the difference between this latest fixture and the two which had preceded it. There were notable changes in personnel which in fact facilitated the transformation of those two aspects; namely the introduction of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian had been handed his full debut for the Anfield club, and grabbed a goal in a tricky, if admittedly patchy, performance by way of celebration. Meanwhile, Sturridge put in a showing of such enormity upon his return from injury that club captain Steven Gerrard handed him penalty duties in the second half so that he might seek fitting reward.

The most telling indicator of the duo’s impact, however, was that Luis Suarez, who had featured in both the disappointing performances earlier in the week, also scored and grabbed an assist. The importance of fresh attacking blood not only supplementing the Uruguayan’s work but improving it was clear as Suarez found the space consistently denied him during games in which he represented the Reds’ sole goal threat.

Of course, getting carried away with oneself in light of a solitary good result is something that Rodgers himself even warned against after the game, being fully aware that neither will be able to feature in the Europa League. He told reporters: “I liken us to a marathon runner just getting ready for the finish line, we’re ready to make a move, make a run and then we trip up. But we trip ourselves up.”

And he was right. Demolition job or otherwise, beating a much-weakened Swansea team with one eye on next week’s Capital One Cup final should be no cause for celebration at a club as big as Liverpool. The south Wales outfit also represent the first team from those who currently make up the top half of the Premier League which the Reds have beaten this term.

But, on the evidence provided by more than just those 90 minutes, dare the home fans believe that, for the first in a long time, Liverpool have enjoyed a productive transfer window?

Two young, hungry players have been brought in who were, arguably, undervalued by their clubs, and both have made an immediate and positive impact. Should they continue in this vein, then both purchases represent the ‘Moneyball’ ideal which Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group are believed to strive for.

In simple terms, the pair could represent the first successful series of buys enjoyed by the Merseyside outfit since their recent decline was put into motion. The additions of Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres in the summer of 2007, which came just months after Javier Mascherano and Alvaro Arbeloa had arrived, represent an unmatched precedent in the modern history of Liverpool Football Club.

Since then the likes of Alberto Aquilani, Robbie Keane and Paul Konchesky have accounted for consistently damaging outlays over a number of windows. Unsurprisingly, even Luis Suarez’s arrival was tempered by the €41 million signing of striker Andy Carroll, who is now out on loan at West Ham.

During this period, three managers have been handed their marching orders by the Anfield side, after they effectively forced themselves to attempt turning water into wine thanks to a disastrous transfer policy.
Rodgers will now hope to avoid becoming the fourth casualty in that increasingly lengthy list by making things easier for himself next season. Buying wine instead of water is certainly a good start.

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Liverpool have high hopes for Coutinho, says Rodgers

The Brazilian attacker made his full debut for the Merseyside outfit against Swansea at Anfield on Sunday afternoon and netted the second goal in a 5-0 victory

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers says he has “high hopes” for January signing Philippe Coutinho after his goalscoring performance in Sunday’s win over Swansea.

The Brazilian netted in the first minute of the second half as the Merseysiders ran out 5-0 winners against the south Wales outfit at Anfield.

And Rodgers believes the 20-year-old attacker can get even better as he adapts to life in the Premier League.

“He’s a real talented player, Coutinho. He’s only 20 but he’s had good experience playing at a big level,” the 40-year-old told reporters.

“He’ll take a bit of time to adapt to the speed and the tempo, coming from Inter Milan his game is at a slower tempo. But he’s a wonderful technician and you can see with his involvement in the first goal the quality and the speed of his passing and he’s got wonderful game knowledge as well.

“I’ve got high hopes for him, these are the types of players we’re trying to get in, the technicians that have got strong character and mentality and I’m sure he’ll progress really well.”

The Northern Irishman also underlined the importance of the win following a week in which the Reds suffered consecutive 2-0 defeats at the hands of West Brom and Zenit St Petersburg.

“It was an important three points. It’s been a bumpy road this week in terms of the games Monday and Thursday,” he added.

“The Premier League is very important for us and we knew that we had to focus and show commitment today against a Swansea team that’s been brilliant this season.

“For us it was a very important win, an outstanding performance and I think we really showed our character and mental toughness today to get a performance like that.

“Funnily enough going into the game it was [all] about keeping a clean sheet, because the last four games defensively we haven’t been at our best. Overall, we’re very pleased and a very good performance.”

Rodgers stopped short of claiming a late push for fourth is possible, however, insisting his side must stop plotting their own downfall.

“Every time I say [fourth is possible] you guys always write and slaughter me. I’m a manager, I’m an optimist but we’re not getting carried away,” he said.

“We’ve put in some outstanding performances this season and never always got the results. I liken us to a marathon runner just getting ready for the finish line, we’re ready to make a move, make a run and then we trip up. But we trip ourselves up.

“That’s something we have to change for the remainder of the season and finish the season as strong as we possibly can.”

Swansea coach Michael Laudrup, meanwhile, claimed his squad cannot blame the number of changes he made for their defeat.

“How do I explain it? It’s a little difficult. Some could say ‘you made a lot of changes’, it’s true. The first to blame is me, maybe, because I pick the team,” he said.

“But you go back the last two or three months and see how many times we changed team from one game to another; two, three, four, five. I remember when we played Fulham between Christmas and New Year with seven changes.

“I know Fulham, with all due respect, is not Liverpool, but still, we won the game. The one thing you can always ask is that the team is competitive and today we came in after the first 45 minutes, we’d had a couple of chances and they’d had more but we were still in the game.

“Then they scored three goals in ten minutes, you cannot do that. We could have lost seven or eight nil easily if it wasn’t for Michel. That’s not good enough. But we have to learn from it, we have to go on and think about the final.”

The Dane also expressed hope that Sunday’s result would not affect his side’s confidence ahead of Sunday’s Capital One Cup final against Bradford at Wembley.

“You get confidence when you win, and you have good results and games, and the opposite when you lose, but that’s part of it,” he continued.

“Everybody wants to play, everybody’s asking for their chances but obviously it’s not so good when we get games like this. I pick out the obvious things [after the match] but my main thing to them today was everybody should look inside at what he could have done better today.

“I will not exclude [the idea of] some players thinking about the game next week. [It]’s human because it’s the biggest game maybe in the history of the club.

“But you see what happens if it’s like that. I want to see this as a single accident maybe caused by what is going to happen in seven days. Or at least I hope so.”

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.