Football

Beware of scary Chelsea, says Souness

Coutinho's 
injury a big 
blow, but Blues are Reds' biggest obstacle, says Souness

Former Liverpool player Graeme Souness does not feel Philippe Coutinho's injury will derail the Reds' title hopes, but he fears "scary" Chelsea could.

Coutinho, one of Liverpool's stand-out players this season, damaged ankle ligaments in his right leg in last Saturday's win over Sunderland.

The Brazilian playmaker could be out for as long as six weeks, meaning he will not return until next year.

Coutinho, 24, has scored five Premier League goals and created six more for the Reds this season.

But former Anfield skipper and manager Souness said: "Of course, it's a blow. But I was captain there and was regarded as one of the better players and I was out for 10 games and they won every single one of them!"

Souness has been hugely impressed with his old club's start to the season.

The Reds lie second, a point behind leaders Chelsea.

"At the start of the season, I would have signed up for finishing in the top four, but now I'm looking for a wee bit more," added the Sky Sports pundit.

"But we're not even in December. One year at Liverpool, we lost to Manchester City on Boxing Day and were 12th in the league, everyone was writing us off and we still won it.

"So to start picking a winner now is really hard. But, of the candidates, Chelsea look scary to me.

HARD TO BEAT

"They don't have to have all of the ball to win games.

"Liverpool do, Manchester City do, Arsenal do. Chelsea play in a pragmatic way, they are hard to beat.

"They all seem to know what they are doing now and Diego Costa and Eden Hazard are a real threat. But it could change dramatically in the next month."

Reds manager Juergen Klopp fired up the Anfield crowd to inspire his men to beat an ultra-defensive Sunderland last weekend, and Souness is a big fan of the German.

"I think he's the perfect fit for that club," he said. "He's a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and he's at a very emotional football club. I think it's working beautifully right now."

Klopp insisted that his team can handle the absence of Coutinho.

The Reds' forward line has already been affected by the loss of Danny Ings to a season-ending knee injury, while Daniel Sturridge has a niggling calf problem.

Adam Lallana, Liverpool's other successful creative force this season, is still not fit after a groin injury sustained on England duty, but Klopp is confident they can cope and refuses to look for excuses.

"Phil Coutinho is a really good football player, so if we cannot use him for the next few days or weeks, each team in the world would feel it," he said.

"But it is no excuse for anything. As good as he is, he does not decide games by himself, although it sometimes looks like this.

"It is a team performance we create and he is a very important part of this team, absolutely.

"Of course, we can handle it. If he is not in, you have to show - and we will show."

Like Klopp, former Liverpool striker Ian Rush believes the Reds are not a one-man team and can deal with the absence of Coutinho.

"Coutinho is a big loss, but the way we've been playing this year has been absolutely fantastic and it's not just about Coutinho," Rush, who scored 346 goals for Liverpool, told TalkSport.

"(Roberto) Firmino has come good, he was absolutely fantastic on Saturday, Lallana is coming back from injury and we have a good all-round squad for scoring goals."

ORIGI OPENER

Divock Origi replaced Coutinho against Sunderland, before opening the scoring at Anfield as Liverpool stretched their unbeaten run to 14 matches.

Rush believes the absence of Coutinho and Sturridge has presented the Belgian with a golden opportunity to stake his claim.

"Origi has to take his chance when it comes," said Rush. "When you get a chance, you have to take it - you only get so many chances. It's a big, big chance for Origi to show what he can do." - Wire Services.

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