Liverpool gunning for the top four – Coutinho

The 21-year-old was integral to the Reds’ blistering end to last season, and is convinced this form will give the club belief to mount a charge for Champions League football

Coutinho insists last season’s impressive finish to the Premier League season has left Liverpool feeling confident of mounting a top-four challenge this term.

Brendan Rodgers’ men lost just one of their last 16 matches in the league campaign, with the Brazilian No.10 and fellow January signing Daniel Sturridge at the heart of the revival.

And Coutinho is adamant this form means the Merseysiders will head into the new season full of belief in their ability to return Champions League football to Anfield.

“Some new players have arrived to help us and the team finished well last year, so we hope to be able to finish within the top four,” he told the club’s official website.

“That’s what we have always fought for, but we should think on a game-by-game basis because the competition is very long and we have to sustain good performances throughout the whole season.”

Coutinho wowed the Anfield faithful with some dazzling trickery and vision last season, and the 21-year-old revealed the secret of his success is his laid back nature on the pitch.

“I always try to be relaxed, always play football and enjoy myself because what I like doing most is to play football, so I’m not concerned with pressure or such things,” he added.

“I just try to enjoy myself on the field and always do my best to help the team.

“I’ll work as hard as I’ve always done, always trying to improve each day as much as I can and always trying to learn from the more experienced players and the manager. Always working hard is what is most important.”

Luis Alberto is another like Coutinho, enthuses Liverpool boss Rodgers

The Reds manager sees similarities in the two youngsters, with the new signing from Sevilla able to have an impact immediately as well as in the seasons to come

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that new signing Luis Alberto is in the same mould as successful January recruit Philippe Coutinho.

The forward joined the Reds from Sevilla on Saturday and the Anfield boss feels that he can make an impact immediately as well as in the long term.

“He’s another Coutinho-type,” Rodgers enthused to talkSPORT. “We brought in young Philippe Coutinho in January when he was 20 but he had good experience and, more importantly, fitted the profile of what we’re trying to do here and what we’re trying to build.

“Young Luis is exactly the same – a talented, very highly rated young player when he was at Sevilla but obviously spent last season at Barcelona B.

“He’s a big talent and one for now that can play. He’s got competitive games behind him and is one we see progressing over the next few years. Importantly, he knows the type of game and model we’re trying to work in.”

Luis Alberto joins Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas as new faces at Anfield this summer and Rodgers was happy to praise his other signings as well.

“Kolo Toure is a player I’ve admired since he came into the Premier League,” he observed. “He was a wonderful servant for Arsenal and a part of that ‘Invincibles’ group and did exceptionally well. And, in the transformation of Manchester City, they brought him in as one of their key players.

“We’re losing an absolute colossal player in Jamie Carragher, who was absolutely brilliant for me. It’s very, very hard to replace that type.

“Kolo Toure will give us that experience and winning mentality.

“He’s still very fit, very strong and will come in, offer that support and fight for his place in the team.

“Iago Aspas was one of the stars for Celta Vigo. He’s a goalscorer, he’s quick, dynamic, aggressive in his game and has a winning mentality.

“I feel these are the types of players that can come into Liverpool and keep our momentum moving forward. Players that are hungry to succeed, because that’s important for us.”

Coutinho can fire Liverpool into Champions League, says Enrique

The Spaniard believes his Brazilian team-mate can help the Reds finish in the top four of the Premier League next season after impressing since his move to Anfield

Liverpool defender Jose Enrique believes Philippe Coutinho can help the club return to the Champions League next season.

The 20-year-old joined the Reds in January from Inter for €10 million and proved an instant hit, scoring three goals in 13 league appearances as well as notching up seven assists.

And Enrique believes such vision and efficiency may prove the difference for the club across a full season.

“Coutinho is a very special player,” Enrique told the club’s official website. “His vision and his passing is incredible and he’s an amazing lad as well.

“It was really good to have him in the team and he proved to be a great signing. For me, Coutinho was the best player in the Premier League in the second half of the season.

“He’s still young and improving but I think he will be very important for us next season when we will fight to get into the top four. Hopefully he will help us achieve our target of the Champions League.”

Enrique was also full of praise for England striker Daniel Sturridge, another successful January signing for the club and also challenged any summer signings to hit the ground running in similar fashion to the duo.

“We will have some new players as well to help us next season and if they do as well as the two players we signed in January then we will be in a great position,” he added.

“As well as Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge was on fire. He scored lots of goals and showed he has all the qualities needed to be one of the best strikers in the Premier League.”

Rodgers hails Coutinho's impact at Liverpool

The Brazilian has made a dazzling start to life in the Premier League since his arrival from Inter in January, and his manager believes there is even more to come

Brendan Rodgers admits he is surprised at how quickly Liverpool new-boy Philippe Coutinho has adapted to the Premier League, and predicts he will get even better next season.

The young Brazilian has scored three goals and wowed Reds fans and neutrals alike with some stunningly incisive passing since his £8.5 million arrival from Inter in January.

And Rodgers believes the prodigious 20-year-old possesses all the attributes to be a key part of his plans for years to come.

“When you bring somebody in during January you hope they can make an impact,” the Liverpool boss told reporters.

“You are also looking at it as a six-month adaptation period before you get the best out of them from pre-season onwards.

“We are all pleasantly pleased and surprised by how well he has done. His numbers tell you the story in terms of goals and assists.

“At the minute, you can’t ask any more. The key thing is that he works his socks off as well. He is a real team player.

“He has genuine man strength. He’s 20 years of age but he’s not a boy. He can look after himself. His body work is great, he is small in stature. The best players very rarely get tackled because they are so bright and clever.

“You can see he can use his body if needs be, but he has to become adapted to the physical game here as the Premier League is very physical.

“He’s been a real find for us in terms of the price we paid. Hopefully his value will be much greater than the cost in the coming years.”

Sturridge makes things easy for me, insists Coutinho

The Brazilian dazzled during Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle, but is adamant that having such quality strikers in front of him makes his creative role much simpler

Liverpool new-boy Philippe Coutinho insists the attacking quality of fellow January arrival Daniel Sturridge made it easier for him to shine against Newcastle on Saturday.

In the absence of the suspended Luis Suarez, Coutinho played a key role in the dismantling of the Magpies at St James’ Park, including two assists and several stunning through balls.

But the Brazilian is adamant the the off-the-ball movement and finishing ability of the likes of Sturridge and Suarez makes them a playmaker’s dream.

“He is an excellent player and very intelligent,” Coutinho told reporters. “He has a lot of technique and scores a lot of goals – I am very pleased to play alongside him.

“Luis and Sturridge move a lot and that makes things easier for the player with the ball – we can put the ball in the empty space and I think that makes things easier for the player that plays behind them.

“By playing with huge players like the ones we have at Liverpool I can learn a lot and I hope to be able to learn more every day to get better and better.”

As well as contributing to three of his side’s goals on Saturday Coutinho, who signed from Inter in January, has scored twice for the Anfield side in just 10 games – form he is keen to continue.

“I believe the game was very important, all of the players played well and we achieved a very important result,” he added.

“I believe my performances have got better and I think it was my best game here. I hope that I can continue to improve.

“I love to create assists. When you play up front you want to create chances, either for yourself or your teammates, and score goals. I hope to help the team by doing this.”

Rodgers warns Liverpool against placing high expectations on Coutinho

The Reds’ manager believes too often young players suffer from the burden of expectation, but praises the Brazilian’s impressive display in Saturday’s 6-0 away win at Newcastle

Brendan Rodgers insists Liverpool should not put pressure on young attacker Philippe Coutinho following his excellent performance in the Reds’ 6-0 away win over Newcastle on Saturday.

The Brazilian playmaker moved to Anfield in January for a fee of £8.5 million from Inter Milan and has since become a regular in the first team, scoring two goals in his nine starts.

Rodgers, however, is determined to avert pressure and expectation away from his young star, though conceded that Coutinho had made a brilliant start to life in the Premier League.

“We build up players in the country and put them on a pedestal and then quickly nail them down,” Rodgers told the club’s official website.

“He’s had an outstanding performance and people can see why we brought him in. He’s 20 years of age and fits the culture of what we’re trying to do here.

“He’s technically strong and he’s a very humble boy. He works hard, you can see the effort in his game, the pressure, the intensity, so he fits in really well, but there’s a long way to go.

“If you look at the stats you’ll see I haven’t eased him in gently. He’s played nearly every game.”

Coutinho was central to his side’s attacking threat at St James’ Park in the absence of Luis Suarez, setting up Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool’s third goal with a particularly impressive through-ball.

Rodgers continued: “It was a wonderful demonstration of what we’re trying to do here. Offensively, we passed the ball very well first and foremost and we scored six goals, but the balance in our game was good too.

“There was organisation, educated pressure on the ball and when the chances came we were ruthless. It was an outstanding performance.

“To go there and beat Newcastle 6-0 when you know the home team really needs the victory, I think it tells you more about our performance. The players were outstanding.”

Sturridge and Coutinho revel in leading roles for Liverpool

The talented duo were in supreme form in the absence of Luis Suarez as they masterminded a 6-0 rout of Newcastle to stretch the Reds’ unbeaten run in the league to five games

COMMENT
By Charlie Scott

Liverpool adjusted to life without Luis Suarez admirably at St James’ Park on Saturday as they thrashed a below-par Newcastle side 6-0. Their biggest league win of the year was a thing of clinical beauty.

Daniel Sturridge – so often ridiculed for his selfishness and poor decision-making – was scintillating, while Philippe Coutinho’s impact on the game was such that at times he seemed to be playing with a different ball from the other 21 men on the pitch.

The Brazilian was the undeniable star as Brendan Rodgers’ side dismantled a Magpies team who have now lost four of their last six league matches. The most important thing, however, was that they did it without Suarez.

Thousands of words have been written analysing the Uruguayan’s misdemeanours, while the FA’s decision to hand him a 10-match ban led many to question what impact his absence would have on the Merseyside club.

The length of that ban means that he misses the remainder of this season and the first six games of the next campaign but any fears that Liverpool’s form might plummet as a result were certainly quelled by the pairing of Sturridge and Coutinho on Saturday.

The Anglo-Brazilian partnership thrived at St James’ Park, albeit against a Newcastle team distinctly lacking in both form and confidence.

Rodgers eulogised about both of their performances after the game, which saw Sturridge score twice and Coutinho slice open Newcastle’s defence again and again with his diverse range of passing.

“I think Sturridge can be one of the best strikers in Europe in a few years. He was phenomenal today,” the Reds boss told reporters after the game.

The former Chelsea striker not only showed his finishing ability but also his willingness to make intelligent runs off the ball to create space for his team-mates and to bring them into play with neat lays-off and well-chosen passes.

When asked about the impact of his young South American playmaker Rodgers was equally complimentary. “Coutinho can play in a couple of positions. He’s a master technician,” the Northern Irishman enthused. “He might be small in stature but you can see his strength. The weight of his passing is incredible.”

Two Coutinho moments in particular stood out. The first was a superb pass with the outside of his right boot that set Sturridge away and allowed him to tee up Jordan Henderson to make it 2-0. The second was when he tussled with Hatem Ben Arfa to win possession on the left wing, then dribbled to the edge of the Newcastle box and scooped a delicious pass through a gap between Steven Taylor and Mathieu Debuchy to Sturridge, who added a third for the visitors.

The game saw both players produce arguably their finest displays in a Liverpool shirt to date and, with Suarez serving the first of his 10-match ban, the timing could not have been better.

However, it is important to acknowledge that, although Liverpool, and their January signings in particular, were very good, Newcastle were also very bad. The Magpies have the most porous defence in the division, having conceded 66 goals in 35 games. Even 20th-placed Reading have been more miserly.

While Pardew and his team now find themselves embroiled in a battle to avoid being drawn into the relegation zone, Liverpool are in a strange position in the sense that, with just three games left to play, they are five points behind Everton in fifth and six points ahead of West Brom in seventh.

The Merseyside derby next time out gives them an opportunity to further narrow the gap and move closer to surpassing their local rivals, yet even that – while giving them bragging rights – would not alter their position in terms of European qualification.

This takes the pressure off and it also gives Rodgers a run of games to encourage Coutinho and Sturridge to forge a relationship without relying on Suarez. The understanding built now must last at least until August.

The young attacking duo have the weight of expectation on their shoulders but, if their showing on Saturday is anything to go by, they should thrive on it.

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Newcastle win proves Liverpool are no one-man team, says Rodgers

The Reds boss emphasises the importance of the collective after thrashing the Magpies 6-0 without Luis Suarez after a “traumatic week”, praising Philippe Coutinho particularly

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has asserted that his side are “not a one-man team” as, in Luis Suarez’s absence, the Reds romped to a 6-0 victory over Newcastle.

With the Uruguayan suspended for 10 games after his already-infamous bite on Branislav Ivanovic, Daniel Sturridge led the line and scored two in a comprehensive win for the Reds.

Another double from Jordan Henderson, along with a goal apiece from Fabio Borini and Daniel Agger, made it six and Rodgers emphasised the importance of a team performance in his leading goalscorer’s absence.

“It’s very much about the collective, how we pass together, how we press together and how we penetrate together. We showed that today. We’re definitely not a one-man team,” he told reporters after the match.

“We had a couple of group meetings this week to narrow our focus. We needed to realign the focus on what was important and what’s important was the football game today.”

The former Swansea City boss proceeded to hail his players’ response to what had been, by his own admission, a “traumatic” week, while he was eager to laud the efforts of another standout performer in Philippe Coutinho.

“It’s been a traumatic week. We accepted that. Luis did wrong, he takes his punishment and we move on,” Rodgers continued.

“We were brilliant from the first whistle, right until the end. To come here and get a victory of 6-0 is very impressive.”

“[Coutinho] is already a top player. Might be small in stature but he’s got all the passes in the bag. He’s also got strength, you could see that for the third goal. Great thing is he will only get better.”

Who is Liverpool's Player of the Season?

Goal.com nominates the top three standout performers from Brendan Rodgers’ debut season in charge at the Merseyside club – have your say in the comments section below!

Following the summer appointment of manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool’s season has panned out largely as the realists expected.

A campaign defined by the liberal use of the word “transition” by fans, the manager and players has materialised, and that has understandably provided a mixed bag in terms of results.

Early exits from the Capital One Cup and FA Cup, at the hands of Swansea and Oldham respectively, were particularly disappointing given last year’s run to the finals of both competitions and victory in one.

The Reds also saw their Europa League campaign ended at the quarter-final stage by Zenit St Petersburg, a team who might have been considered easy pickings during recent years of European success.

However, the Merseyside club look set to improve on last season’s eighth-placed Premier League finish by one place at least, while an attack which looked anaemic at times under Kenny Dalglish has already surpassed last year’s goal total.

Here, Goal.com looks at three reasons for Liverpool’s (admittedly minor) improvements this term, and you can let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments below!

PHILIPPE COUTINHO | FORWARD

Competition Games
Goals Assists Booked
Sent off
League 9 2 3 0 0
FA Cup 0 0 0 0 0
Capital One Cup 0 0 0 0 0
Europe 0 0 0 0 0
Total 9 2 3 0 0

It is perhaps surprising that a man who has featured on just nine occasions for Liverpool could earn a place on a season-long shortlist, but this simply underlines the size of Coutinho’s impact.

The Brazilian has already equalled Stewart Downing’s assists tally and trails him by just one goal, despite having made 16 fewer Premier League appearances.

Coutinho has also helped refresh a frontline which was struggling to create and score before January, providing flashes of the brilliance which make his £8 million pricetag appear ludicrous given his tender years.

Liverpool fans displayed their appreciation for the 20-year-old’s talents just three games into his Reds career, working his name into a rousing version of Arrow’s 1982 hit “Hot Hot Hot” as Brendan Rodgers’ men brushed Wigan aside.

It will be hoped that there is even more to come from the former Inter man, and so that song may become a familiar soundtrack to victories at Anfield in the future.

STEVEN GERRARD | MIDFIELDER

Competition Games
Goals Assists Booked
Sent off
League 34 9 9 5 0
FA Cup 1 0 0 0 0
Capital One Cup 1 0 0 0 0
Europe 8 1 1 0 0
Total 44 10 11 5 0

Steven Gerrard’s immense contribution to his hometown club’s cause over the last decade did not provide him with immunity from criticism during the opening stages of the season.

Observers questioned whether, at 32 years old, the midfielder was perhaps past his best, unable to recreate the bursts of pace and strength which characterised much of his success in recent history.

But, as he has done on many occasions throughout a storied career, Gerrard has since proven his doubters wrong.

The England captain has reinvented himself as a deep-lying midfielder this season, utilising his long passing range and timing of runs to perfection.

His withdrawn position has not stunted his creative influence either, with the Whiston-born star having matched his best-ever Premier League assists total of nine.

The long-term benefits of moving Gerrard’s ageing legs back are clear, and Rodgers will hope that his skipper can feature in such lists for many years to come as a result.

Competition Games
Goals Assists Booked
Sent off
League 33 23 8 10 0
FA Cup 2 2 0 0 0
Capital One Cup 1 1 0 0 0
Europe 8 4 3 1 0
Total 44 29 10 11 0

In truth, the debate over who has been Liverpool’s player of the season is rendered void by the fact that the Reds arguably boast the best player in the entire league.

Luis Suarez is unlikely to win the PFA Player of the Year award due to his numerous indiscretions (despite the inexcusable decision to bite Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday afternoon coming after the voting had closed) but the Uruguayan has lit up the English top flight this term with a series of stunning displays.

In terms of league goals he is second only to Robin van Persie – who is, with respect, blessed with more talented team-mates – and has chipped in with his fair share of assists as well.

That the 26-year-old allies this creative output to the workrate of a lower league player and a frightening will to win puts him head and shoulders above his peers.

Suarez’s recent declaration of his desire to remain at Anfield will be music to the ears of Liverpool fans, but the striker must face better competition for this accolade next season if he is to stay even longer.

Coutinho credits Liverpool team-mates for speedy Premier League transition

The Brazilian attacker has formed an instant bond with ‘big brother’ and countryman Lucas Leiva, while Reds captain Steven Gerrard has also been giving the youngster advice

Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho has described how his new Anfield colleagues have helped him settle into life in England, both on and off the pitch.

The 20-year-old joined the Reds in January from Inter and has made an immediate impact, notching two goals and three assists in just six league outings.

And the Brazilian has acknowledged the contribution of his new team-mates in speeding his acclimatisation to the pace of the Premier League and his new-found defensive responsibilities.

“There were a few occasions when I was quite slow and Steven Gerrard came up to me and asked me to be much quicker with the ball, and mark the opposition players more quickly too,” Coutinho revealed to the Sunday Times.

“Some other team-mates ask me the same, they are always trying to help me get better.”

The former Vasco da Gama attacker has also received support away from the training pitches, forming a close bond with fellow Brazilian and “big brother” Lucas, who played a key role in persuading Coutinho to move to Merseyside.

“When we’re here in the training ground we’re always together, whether on the pitch or in the dressing room, and when we are out of here we go for meals together sometimes,” continued the former Inter starlet.

But while the January recruit may have made a quick transition to English football, he is still getting used to the colder climate.

“It’s completely different from Brazil, the wind here is really strong and cold,” added Coutinho.

“I tell my friends in Brazil and when they come over they cannot believe how cold it is. But with time we’ll get used to it.”