The international break is often a time where fans and managers worry about players returning to their clubs intact and undiminished. The quality of football isn't as good as what is offered at club level, interruptions break up the regular season, players can return tired from lengthy round trips, and injuries can complicate a manager's best laid plans. November's break is the last one until March, but how has it affected Liverpool this season?
Liverpool's success this campaign has been a team effort, but Philippe Coutinho is arguably the club's star player. The Brazilian has been a sparkling delight with five goals and five assists in ten league appearances—numbers that underline how consistent and productive he's been this season. The quality of his goals make it difficult to ignore how brightly his star has been shining, and Coutinho is rumoured to be a potential transfer target for Barcelona.
Coutinho wears the number ten for Liverpool and has been a particular favourite of the fanbase since arriving in January 2013. There was a sense of pride from Liverpool fans after his wonder goal for Brazil against Argentina, but there was also a realisation that Coutinho is finally reaching the maturity as many superstar attackers have done before him. This is the type of player who should be shining at both club and international level, and it appears that the Brazilian is breaking new ground this season.
Daniel Sturridge hasn't been making regular starts with Jürgen Klopp's exacting physical demands, and although he has found his range with four goals in the EFL Cup, the 27-year-old has yet to score in the Premier League this season. He recently responded to criticism of his work ethic but has looked like the Sturridge we know and should love on England duty. The minutes and goals should serve Sturridge and Liverpool well, and with Sadio Mané unavailable through most of January with international commitments, Sturridge will be needed in the months ahead.
In the last international break, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson reached a milestone in his career by captaining England against Slovenia. Henderson will get another chance to state his international leadership credentials against Spain tomorrow. This is Steven Gerrard's successor as captain, and while comparisons with a club legend are as unfair as they are unhelpful, it's good to see Henderson follow in Gerrard's footsteps to captain his country. At 26, such experiences can only help the midfielder in his role with Liverpool.
For Liverpool, however, the international break hasn't been a source of fury and frustration this season. Georginio Wijnaldum missed the goalless draw with Manchester United after suffering a hip injury against France but returned in the next game against West Bromwich Albion to make an appearance from the bench. Since then, Emre Can has stated his case as a box to box midfielder with Henderson continuing to impress as a holding midfielder.
When the likes of Dejan Lovren and Joël Matip remain at Melwood when others fly off around the world, there is a sense of relief that some senior players will be able to rest. Yet Liverpool don't have any European football this season to add more miles on players's legs, but even if Europa League or Champions League duties were part of this campaign, shouldn't a club of Liverpool's stature want to be a destination where players can grow at both club and international level?