Philippe Coutinho back in the zone for Liverpool

Philippe Coutinho

FA Cup Fourth Round
Liverpool v Bolton
Today: Anfield, 5.30pm
TV: BT Sport 1

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes playmaker Philippe Coutinho has come into his own in the last few weeks.

The Brazil international struggled to find his form in the early part of the season but the Reds boss believes that was down to a readjustment process the youngster was going through after the sale of Luis Suarez and the long-term injury to Daniel Sturridge.

However, the installation of Raheem Sterling as a central striker providing pace and movement on the forward line has brought the best out of Coutinho, who produced an influential performance in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final first leg 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

He has also been helped by the reintroduction of two central midfielders, particularly one as defensively-minded as compatriot Lucas Leiva, as it has relieved some of the responsibility of tracking back.

“He was outstanding the other night,” Rodgers said of Coutinho.

“He is that bit of magic who makes that last pass in the final third.

“Last year he had Suarez and Sturridge to make those passes to but he hasn’t had that.

“Up until six or seven weeks ago he didn’t have that ability to make the threaded pass through.

“Once we had that bit of mobility and speed and movement at the top end of the field – and the others around him – that has really helped him. He is a class act and still has so much development left to make and he is playing very well.”

With a must-win semi-final second leg against Chelsea coming up on Tuesday, Rodgers has to decide just how many changes he can afford to make to rest important players for the FA Cup visit of Bolton without interrupting the rhythm of a side who look to have finally found their feet.

Meanwhile Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini claims his team will be refreshed and ready for the challenge of Middlesbrough this weekend after a week in Abu Dhabi.

The Premier League champions flew to the United Arab Emirates for a five-day warm-weather training camp straight after last week’s frustrating loss to Arsenal.

“It was the right time to have a break and we’ve enjoyed our stay in Abu Dhabi.

“Last January we played eight or nine games so it was important to have this time so we can return refreshed.”

Middlesbrough head to the Etihad Stadium in good form having lost just once in their last 15 matches.


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