As Sadio Mané leaves, Philippe Coutinho returns. The Brazilian star is likely to feature in the matchday squad against Southampton as Liverpool bid for a second successive appearance in the EFL Cup final. Then there's the matter of a trip to Old Trafford where José Mourinho’s in-form Manchester United are waiting. Jürgen Klopp acknowledged that despite Coutinho being available for selection, the 24-year may not be completely match-fit.
“The time is not long enough for him to be 100% for Manchester United but he could play,” Klopp said. “We have spoken before about there being a difference between being fit and being match-fit but of course it’s Phil, so we want to try everything we can to bring him as close as possible to his 100%.
“In this moment I would say it makes sense for him to be involved against Southampton, in the squad, and we will see what happens there – whether we have to use him or not or whatever. If not, we have another three days to prepare him for United. A few minutes for him does make sense. We will see if he’s ready tomorrow and on Wednesday morning. Then we will make the decision.”
Coutinho has the ability to make a difference in a matter of moments, and so, his availability should be a considerable boost for Liverpool in what is another busy month. It wouldn't be wise to rush him back too soon after just four training sessions with the first-team squad, but with Manè on African Cup of Nations duty, Liverpool lack attacking options on the left and right of the front three. Still, a Coutinho rising from the bench for a cameo is better than no Coutinho at all.