Jurgen Klopp has hinted Philippe Coutinho could make his first start for Liverpool this season against Burnley on Saturday, after a turbulent summer disrupted by transfer speculation.
Coutinho was linked with Barcelona throughout the summer window after handing in a transfer request at Anfield, although a transfer to the Nou Camp failed to materialise after Liverpool refused to sell the Brazil international.
The 25-year-old missed the start of the season through injury but returned to first-team duties on Wednesday night as a second-half substitute in the 2-2 draw with Sevilla in the Champions League.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 15, 2017
“He should be ready,” said Klopp, who thanked Liverpool’s fans for applauding Coutinho during the draw with Sevilla.
“It was really nice how the crowd welcomed him. I don’t think anyone was 100 per cent sure about this and I’m really happy that we, as a Liverpool family, were sensitive enough to do it like this.
“He has trained outstandingly in the few sessions we’ve had together so far since he’s been back. The game [against Sevilla] was not perfect but that is how it is after a long break but it helped him, and helped us.
“For sure, we’re ready to think about him [starting against Burnley].”
While Coutinho could come back into Klopp’s starting line-up, the German will have to cope without Sadio Mane, who will serve the opening game of his three-match ban following a red card against Manchester City.
Liverpool have a significantly worse win percentage without Mane, but Klopp insists his side have enough strength in depth to deal with the loss of the Senegal international.
“It was clear before the season that there would be moments he could not play,” Klopp said. “That is how we reacted in building the squad so we have options.
“Roberto [Firmino] has already played left wing and of course Phil [Coutinho] can play there. Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain] can play there. We have more options so it’s good, we can change the system.
“It is always difficult to replace top class players in a really good shape but we did it last year. We had to play without him and I think we did really well in most games.”
Liverpool will be hoping to bounce back from their heavy 5-0 defeat to City when they host Burnley.
The Clarets have made a promising start to the season under Sean Dyche and have already picked up four points away from home at Chelsea and Tottenham.
“What I really like about what Sean Dyche is doing there is that they have a clear plan – you can see it in each game,” said Klopp.
“They don’t make one step left and one step right, they stick to the plan. That’s so clear and difficult to play against because those players show so much desire to defend in all situations.
“There is not one player in the team who you think gambles a bit. It is a big strength for Sean. Nobody should think that tomorrow is an easy game for us.”