With all the talk about Luis Suarez over the past week, one could be forgiven for forgetting that he won't be the only player on the pitch on Sunday when Liverpool travel to White Hart Lane to face Spurs. For Tottenham's defensive midfielder Sandro, in fact, stopping midfielder Philippe Coutinho will be just as important—and just as difficult—as limiting the on-form striker's chances.
"Suarez is a great footballer and in a great spell of form," said Sandro, who in addition to his Tottenham duties has made 17 appearances for the Brazilian national team. "He has scored a lot of goals but we are going to push to hold him and stop him. We know he can score wherever he is on the pitch—he can make something out of nothing. But it's not just him. When Coutinho plays he has a good pass on him and is intelligent."
Suarez may be England's deadliest finisher at the moment, but much of his best chances this season have come with Coutinho's involvement, and limiting the midfielder's opportunities on the ball could prove just as important in any attempts to shut down the striker as what Tottenham do to try to shut down Suarez himself. That's easier said than done, though, with a player of Coutinho's qualities.
"With the ball, Coutinho’s passes are like Ronaldinho’s," added Sandro. "His passes are good. He doesn’t move a lot, but his passing—you think he is going to pass here and he passes there instead. He's the same as Ronaldinho. You think he’s going to do one thing, and he does something completely different. Ronaldinho was the best player, but I think their style is similar, and I’m happy for him. He's young but he starts good at Liverpool, and it's difficult to do that at Liverpool."
While Coutinho may still have some way to go to match Ronaldinho's attacking exploits, a year into his Liverpool career it's not a comparison that seems a massive stretch. Throw in a willingness to track back and put in a defensive shift, and Coutinho may even have the potential to one day surpass the player Ronaldinho was at his best, which is the kind of thought to make Liverpool fans giddy—and maybe even a touch nervous.