After a tough run of injuries for Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers' side head to the Emirates to face Arsenal on Saturday with only one senior player* unavailable for selection. With Jose Enrique continuing to struggle with a knee problem and Aly Cissokho once again fit, Rodgers isn't planning on taking any risks with his Spanish left back, leaving Enrique out of contention.
Elsewhere, though, the news is all good, with with Martin Kelly and Joe Allen standing up to recent cameo appearances and once again fully fit while Glen Johnson has put his ankle injury behind him and will be expected to start opposite Cissokho—though whether that start comes as a fullback or wingback remains an open question.
However, the biggest news for Liverpool fans comes further up the pitch, where Philippe Coutinho has recovered from a shoulder injury suffered against Swansea in September. With Rodgers mixing up his lineups in training on Thursday, there's no telling if the manager feels Coutinho is ready to start, but he will at least be fit enough to make the bench.
"Jose will be a question mark for the weekend, but Coutinho is great," said Rodgers, clearly pleased by the chance to work the Brazilian playmaker back into the lineup after a month and a half without him. "He's been given the all clear by the specialist to come in. He's been training for the last few weeks, so he'll come back into the squad."
With Joe Allen's return and Jordan Henderson one of Liverpool's best performers in recent weeks, finding a place for Coutinho in Liverpool's midfield could prove difficult, and that as much as his long layoff may play a role in whether Rodgers chooses to start the 21-year-old or keep him on the bench as a potential impact sub.
Still, it seems certain that, one way or another, if Coutinho is fit then he will play at some point on Saturday. And having watched the player ease himself back into the action in training over the past two weeks has convinced Rodgers that it won't take Coutinho long to get back up to match speed when he does play.
"You always miss someone of his quality and it will be great to have him back," was Rodgers' take when Coutinho first rejoined training late last week, leading some to speculate he might even have been ready to go in time for the West Brom match. "Over the last couple of days he has looked brilliant. It’s like he has never been away with his flow and fluency with the ball."
He wasn't then, but he is now. So. Time for Coutinho to do something magical at the Emirates. And, you know, no pressure or anything.
More from The Liverpool Offside:
- Allen: "It's a Challenge You Have to Relish"
- Rodgers Reaffirms Suarez Sale "Was Never Going to Happen"
- Derby Chief Denies Hughes to Liverpool Rumours
- Moses Reaches the Promised Land
- Cissokho Relishing Wingback Position