Everything’s fine. At least that’s the tune Jürgen Klopp was singing at his pre-Manchester City press conference when asked about Philippe Coutinho’s reintroduction into the squad. We’ve seen the pictures of Phil’s smiling face while he trained during his first post-nuclear-shenanigans session. He looks great. Happy, even. But while Coutinho’s happiness at remaining at Liverpool is not so convincing for some, Klopp insists that his relationship with the Brazilian attacker is undamaged and the team will now move ahead accordingly.
However, that doesn’t mean Phil will walk back into the first team. In fact, he won’t even be walking back into the match day squad, since Klopp prefers to properly build up Coutinho’s match fitness in light of a heavy stretch of games ahead.
“We had a very good talk,” said Klopp of his first meeting with Coutinho since the transfer window shut. “He was in a very good mood. Training was even better.
“But I had to make a decision. We have now seven games in the next three weeks. So, there would never be time really for training.
“Before he went to Brazil he couldn’t train for around about three weeks. So, that means we have to try to prepare him for the rest of the season.
“That’s quite difficult with our fixtures and our schedule. So, I decided to leave him out of the squad for City. We can use this four of five days for real and proper training.”
Coutinho traveled and featured for Brazil during the international break, scoring in their World Cup qualifier against Ecuador and otherwise impressing in the limited minutes he had on the pitch. But Liverpool have held onto the little Brazilian for what he can offer the club for the entire season and not just for short term gain, so it’s Klopp’s position that Phil should first get heavy-metal-football fit before being given the nod to feature for Liverpool.
“He could have played fifteen or twenty minutes again in the City game, maybe longer, but I think really it makes sense,” said Klopp. “And he (Phil) agreed completely.”
On the docket for next week is Liverpool’s first Champions League group stage match against Sevilla followed by Burnley in the league next Saturday. Klopp will have an eye on getting Coutinho some minutes on the Anfield pitch for one or both of those matches after a good solid spell of training. Beyond that, between the Premier League, the Champions League, and the League Cup, it’s going to be all hands on deck.
Happy or not, it’s time to hunker down and win some football matches together.