Philippe Coutinho expected to start for Liverpool against Burnley
Brazilian playmaker could take the place of the suspended Sadio Mane
Philippe Coutinho returned to action in Liverpool’s Champions League match against Sevilla and is expected to start against Burnley this weekend. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images
The Senegal international is about to start a three-match ban for his dismissal in the 5-0 defeat at Manchester City and Coutinho would appear to be the ideal fit to replace him, having operated in that same left-sided role for most of last season.
The Brazil international has been eased into the first-team picture after missing the start of the campaign with a back injury, but made his comeback with a 15-minute cameo in the Champions League draw with Sevilla on Wednesday.
Although the 25-year-old showed obvious signs of rustiness the visit of the Clarets provides an opening and offers Coutinho a chance to rekindle his love affair with the Kop after handing in a transfer request a month ago in an attempt to force a move to Barcelona.
“He should be ready [to start],” Reds manager Jürgen Klopp said. “It was really nice how the crowd welcomed him – no one was 100 per cent sure about this but the Liverpool family was sensitive enough to do this and for him it was good.
“He trained outstandingly in the few sessions we’ve had together since he was back.
“His game was not perfect but that is how it is after a long break, but it helped him and us.
“It is always difficult to replace top-class players [Mane] in a really good shape but we did it at the end of last season when we had to play without him.
“Roberto [Firmino] has already played left wing, Phil has played there and Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain] can play there.
“Before the season it was clear there would be moments when he [Mane] cannot or should not play games and we reacted in building the squad to have enough options.”
The Reds boss confirmed the Belgium international is his first-choice for Premier League matches, while Trent Alexander-Arnold could return at right back.
Liverpool’s defence is in the spotlight again after letting a lead slip late on against Sevilla. The back four featured two changes compared to the game against Manchester City, but Klopp insisted those alterations were not the reason for the high number of goals conceded.
“In an ideal world we [would] have 11 players play the whole season, but it is not an ideal world,” he said.
“We didn’t concede a goal because of the formation and [because] they didn’t work together.
“It is a lack of concentration. Our fault is that, with some things, we give you the opportunity to talk about it – that is our mistake.
“We cannot take out the five goals against City but if we could do it, we have played a lot of games with decent defensive performances.”