Coutinho set for Liverpool return in EFL Cup semi-final

9 January 2017 14:30

Philippe Coutinho is set to return to Liverpool’s squad for the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Southampton.

Liverpool travel to St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday and should be able to call upon the attacking midfielder for the first time since November 26, when he suffered an ankle injury in the home Premier League win over Sunderland.

Manager Jurgen Klopp made 10 changes for the 0-0 FA Cup third-round draw at home to Plymouth Argyle on Sunday – fielding the youngest team in the club’s history.

But he insists it will be a full strength team against the Saints, with his side only one tie from Wembley.

“It’s all good – no new injuries and all the rest are on their way back,” Klopp said at his pre-match media conference.  

“I think Phil is fit enough to be a big part of the squad. He trained again on Monday morning. He needs minutes in training but he also needs minutes in games.

“It has been seven weeks, it is long, but no final decision has been made until now. Tuesday will be his fourth complete session.

“It will be the best team we can play, that is how it is. Last year [two legs were] a surprise, this year I’m used to it – all good.

“With Millie [James Milner] there are no issues any more, Jordan Henderson [will] hopefully be back for Thursday team training. Joel Matip is taking the first steps in training.

“The League Cup is rated third in England but as long as you are involved it is the most important cup. 

“I know everyone is thinking Liverpool v Manchester [United] would be a nice final but there is still a tie to play.”

Klopp’s record in finals with Liverpool and previous club Dortmund is unimpressive but the German is still gunning for a place at Wembley.

He added: “[Making the final] would be nice. What do you think, that I don’t want to go to the final because I’ve lost the last five?

“You don’t have a lot of advantages in two-legged fixtures. But if you asked before you would say play first away, then decide at home.

“We have to go to Southampton, it’s the first leg, they are pretty ambitious in this tournament. There is a proper final at Wembley to play for.”

Klopp, who revealed it was likely Loris Karius would keep his place in goal, again moved to defend his decision to make wholesale changes for the match with Plymouth.

He said: “We made the changes on Sunday for different reasons. I actually think there were no alternatives at this moment. I had the highest expectation for this line-up because I see them every day in training.

“We are used to a busy schedule and now we have one game more. That was not the plan but it doesn’t make the biggest difference.

“If you win it’s wonderful because you have the youngest line-up ever, but we didn’t think like this, we selected the best line-up for the game.

“It is about who I have available, who I can line up. It is not about young, old, it is about which line-up made sense.”

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