Amidst genuine interest from Barcelona, Philippe Coutinho is set to miss Liverpool’s final friendly of the pre-season campaign against Athletic Bilbao. Tomorrow’s friendly will complete Jürgen Klopp’s preparations for his third season in English football, and the former Borussia Dortmund trainer is adamant that his star player is not for sale.
Coutinho apparently has a slight back injury that necessitates rest ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League and Champions League commitments this month. That is naturally the wisest course of action with Adam Lallana out for up to three months with a thigh injury. That follows on from Nathaniel Clyne missing the season opener, Joe Gomez missing the first Audi Cup game as a precaution after recovering from a long-term injury, and Daniel Sturridge pulling up after scoring a sumptuous chip against Bayern Munich.
The sky isn’t falling, but Liverpool aren’t too far from where the club needs to be in terms of squad depth. Even so, there is a distance between the current options available to Klopp and the necessary level of quality as well as depth required to compete. Some fans may be worried about whether this is part of an eventual transfer to Barcelona this month, but the more immediate concern should be that Coutinho has any kind of injury at all.
Liverpool can still roll out Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, and Georginio Wijanldum in midfield with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, and Roberto Firmino up top. That’s not exactly an impoverished front six, but there is a lack of guile and control in midfield. Without Coutinho, there is a lack of artistry and invention. Forget worrying about Barcelona, worry about the magician staying fit for the majority of the campaign.