Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp (C) speaks to Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho as he prepares to play during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between Liverpool and Sevilla at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on September 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS
Philippe Coutinho is set to start his first Liverpool game since trying to engineer a move to Barcelona when the Reds take on Burnley on Saturday, according to his coach Jurgen Klopp.
The playmaker should be unleashed into the spot vacated by striker Sadio Mane, suspended after his sending off in their 5-0 drubbing by Man City last weekend, manager Klopp suggested on Friday.
The Senegal international took a three-match ban and Coutinho looks the ideal replacement, having operated in the same left-sided role for most of last season.
The Brazil international has been eased into the first-team picture after missing the start of the campaign with a back injury but made his comeback with a 15-minute cameo in the Champions League draw with Sevilla on Wednesday.
Coutinho submitted a transfer request on the eve of the season but Liverpool repeatedly rebuffed Barcelona’s attempts to lure him to the Camp Nou.
“He should be ready (to start),” Klopp said. “It was really nice how the crowd welcomed him — no one was 100 per cent sure about this but the Liverpool family was sensitive enough to do this and for him it was good.
“He trained outstandingly in the few sessions we’ve had together since he was back. His game was not perfect but that is how it is after a long break, but it helped him and us.”
“It is always difficult to replace top-class players,” he added.
Klopp confirmed Simon Mignolet would return in goal at Anfield on Saturday after sitting out in midweek to give Loris Karius a game.
He confirmed the Belgium international is his first-choice for Premier League matches, while Trent Alexander-Arnold could return at right-back.
Liverpool’s defence is in the spotlight again after letting a lead slip late on against Sevilla. The back four featured two changes compared to the game against Manchester City but Klopp insisted those alterations were not the reason for the high number of goals conceded.
“In an ideal world we (would) have 11 players play the whole season but it is not an ideal world,” he said.
“We didn’t concede a goal because of the formation and (because) they didn’t work together. It is a lack of concentration.”
“We cannot take out the five goals against City but if we could do it, we have played a lot of games with decent defensive performances,” he added.