Football

Coutinho fit but out of Liverpool squad

Klopp wants Brazilian midfielder to regain full match fitness

Philippe Coutinho is fit and healthy, but will play no part in Liverpool's crunch match with Manchester City tonight.

Reds manager Juergen Klopp said yesterday that the midfielder, who made two substitute appearances for Brazil in the World Cup qualifiers in the past week, needs more time to regain full match fitness.

Coutinho, who was linked with a move to Barcelona, has yet to play for the Reds this season due to a back injury.

But he came on as a second-half substitute for Brazil in the 2-0 win over Ecuador and a 1-1 draw with Colombia, scoring against the former.

Said Klopp: "We have got all the numbers (on Coutinho) from the Brazilian FA - the training, the intensity of the training, stuff like that, and it was all okay.

"And he played twice - I think about 15 or 20 minutes (each time).

"He could have played 15, 20 minutes again in the City game - maybe longer - but I think really it makes sense (to leave him out).

GOOD CONVERSATION

"He agreed completely, so it was not as if he said, 'No, I don't need training, I want to play'. It was a good conversation."

Klopp was at pains to explain why he wants his star player to be in optimal condition before returning.

Said the German: "I know what people think, but Phil had the back problem a few weeks ago and couldn't train so that means he missed around about three weeks.

"Yes, he went to the national team and trained normally, but now we have to prepare for a normal season. We have seven games (before the next international break)."

Klopp also played down suggestions that Coutinho's failed transfer could affect his mindset, saying the player had accepted the disappointment of not getting his move to Spain.

"Nothing that I'm aware of was unforgivable," Klopp said.

"It wasn't clear, it was not an easy time, but... I think we handled it really well.

"It's a normal thing, he came in yesterday and accepted the situation.

"And now we should use the situation with a wonderful player in our squad who wants to get fit and play for this club."

Besides long-term casualties Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Ings, Klopp has a full squad to choose from.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who joined Liverpool from Arsenal in a £35 million (S$61m) deal last week, is in line for his debut.

The Reds, who are second in the table after a 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal, face a hectic month ahead where they play seven games in three weeks.

Besides their weekend EPL matches, they also have midweek Champions League games against Sevilla and Spartak Moscow and a League Cup clash with Leicester to contend with.

- WIRE SERVICES

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