Philippe Coutinho is physically fit to play 90 minutes, but he isn’t match sharp and ready to start. Such is the verdict from Brazil boss Tite, who starts the 25-year-old on the bench for the second game in a row tonight as his side take on Colombia in World Cup qualifying.
It’s news that has drawn predictably mixed reactions from Liverpool fans, one more piece of evidence that his recent back injury and illness were likely feigned. If he is to play a role for Liverpool, though, getting minutes this week with Brazil is in everybody’s best interest.
“Coutinho is physically fit,” Tite, who plans on giving Coutinho 30 minutes tonight, told Globosporte ahed of the match. “I can count on him for part of the game. He’s physically fine but technically it is different in a game of this size because he has not played for a long time.”
He’s no longer injured, then. At least that much is clear. But his injury—real or feigned—means he missed out on the second half of Liverpool’s pre-season and isn’t match fit. He isn’t up to starting against a powerful opponent like Colombia. And he likely isn’t ready for Manchester City.
But he is at least fit to play, and if he gets another 30 minutes in for Brazil tonight he should at least be able to do the same for Liverpool on Saturday. The question now becomes whether he will—whether Klopp chooses to include him at all straight away on the weekend.
There’s also the question of Coutinho’s mental state. It may be that the player has made peace with the situation and is content to put the summer’s troubles behind him; that he will push on with a strong final season at the club as Luis Suarez did before he got his move in 2014.
The Catalan press, though, has been telling stories of anger and upset and potential rebellion, and it may take until Saturday before we know for certain how much truth there is in those stories—or it could even take longer. But Coutinho is fit to play. For the time being at least.