Rodgers praise for “magic” Coutinho

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

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 10, 2015: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Sunderland during the Premier League match at the Stadium of Light. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

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.”

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard could be rested for the FA Cup fourth round visit of Bolton on Saturday.

With a must-win Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at Chelsea on Tuesday the 34-year-old, who missed last weekend’s win at Aston Villa with a tight hamstring, is likely to drop to the bench.

Rodgers has confirmed 17-year-old midfielder Jordan Rossiter will be involved in some capacity, while defender Glen Johnson, midfielder Joe Allen and striker Mario Balotelli all returned to training this week.

PA

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