Klopp: Philippe Coutinho's return will benefit the entire Liverpool team, not just Roberto Firmino

Klopp: Philippe Coutinho's return will benefit the entire Liverpool team, not just Roberto Firmino

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is confident that the return of playmaker Philippe Coutinho this weekend, with the Brazilian likely to start his first league game since November against Swansea City, will benefit the entire team and not just compatriot Roberto Firmino, whom he enjoys a near telepathic on-field relationship with.

charlie-malam
Charlie Malam

Jürgen Klopp believes the return of Liverpool's attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho can benefit the entire team and not just Brazilian teammate Roberto Firmino, despite their prolific on-field link-up.

The pair have established a scintillating relationship on the pitch, playing a part in 19 of the Reds' 49 goals alone in the Premier League this season.

But Coutinho has been sidelined since the end of November with an ankle ligament problem, which has coincided with a drop in Liverpool's level of attacking performances - though hasn't had a huge impact on results.

Liverpool sit third, level on points with second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, although Klopp will hope that Coutinho's return to the starting eleven can reignite the relentlessness and fluency of their attack earlier in the season.

Coutinho's return will be a huge boost - the 24-year-old in line for his first start in the Premier League against Swansea City on Saturday, since being stretchered off in a home win over Sunderland two months ago.

He made his long-awaited comeback last weekend, coming off the bench to play the final half-an-hour of the draw at rivals Manchester United, before managing an hour in the FA Cup replay win at Plymouth Argyle in mid-week.

Klopp says Coutinho's comeback is some of the club's "best" news

Key to that will be the combination play between Firmino and Coutinho, but Klopp says instead that the No.10's return will have a wide-ranging impact because of his quality.

He said that "you saw it [the quality] already in the few minutes he had in the last games" that Coutinho adds, insisting: "I was actually happy about the opportunity at Plymouth, that we could give him this 60-something minutes."

The Reds boss declared that the game was "really good" for the player and the club, allowing them "to get kind of a rhythm" because it is "actually not really possible" that Coutinho can "be back on the pitch and immediately [be] at 100 per-cent."

Klopp continued that the mercurial Brazil international is "very important" to the team and that he is "happy about this face", saying that it is "not 150 [per-cent] good news in the last few days" but that Coutinho being available again "is one of the best [bits of news] for sure." 

Firmino still in "good shape" despite Coutinho's absence, says Reds boss

Coutinho's absence, as well as Sadio Mane leaving to take part in the Africa Cup of Nations for Senegal, means Liverpool have struggled to recapture the electrifying attacking displays of earlier this season.

Firmino in particular has carried a greater burden, but has been ineffective in a wide position - with Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge regularly coming in to lead the line with the lack of other options out wide.

But Klopp doesn't necessarily believe that Coutinho's spell out injured has affected Firmino's form as he touched upon the "few players who have played nearly every [game]" which has made it "really hard" and means it "will stay pretty hard."

"Roberto, of course, had a few moments where he lost this ball or this ball, maybe didn't score in this situation, or whatever," admitted Klopp, declaring that he "doesn't depend on any other player." 

The German acknowledged that "it helps the whole team" with Coutinho on the pitch, even though Firmino and Coutinho "like each other", and that "everybody can benefit from Phil's skills" and "the other way round it's the same."

Klopp vowed that Firmino is "really in good shape" and that for "an offensive player" it is "always important that you score" but believes that because he "played for us more on the wing" with Mane out and "all that stuff" that it "changes things a little bit" although "not too much."

"He's often enough in the right areas and he had the pass from Phil in the United game and that was one of the best first contacts in a game I ever saw actually," Klopp cited.

He said that "unfortunately" the chance was "not too easy" for Firmino but continued: "It's good for all of us that'e back, but Roberto is still in good shape."

Klopp thankful for Brazilian duo's unselfish link-up with the team

Firmino has only scored one goal in nine games without Coutinho since his injury, having fired five in 13 alongside his compatriot before that.

And Klopp feels their excellent understanding, having proved so lethal together this term, is also so effective because of their unselfish play within the team.

He said that "the most important thing" is that the duo "don't only play together", which he says would make it "predictable" - adding: "Good friends looking for each other, it's not like this. They are really footballers, they don't care, and that's what I really like."

He said that if Firmino is "in the best position" then Coutinho "gives him the ball" but that "if not, somebody else gets it" which Klopp believes shows "a real partnership."

The German expanded that "doing always the same thing, even when it's good, is not the right thing" and that it is necessary to "mix up all these things."

Klopp also said: "Good understanding in the team helps a lot, but thank God they have a good understanding with all their teammates and not just each other."

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