Philippe Coutinho has been pictured at Melwood on Monday, as the Brazilian continues his recovery from an ankle injury.
Coutinho has been sidelined since November’s 2-0 win at home to Sunderland, though initial fears of a long-term layoff were eased, with the 24-year-old not requiring surgery.
A strong tackle from Dider Ndong has still kept Coutinho out of clashes with Leeds United, Bournemouth, West Ham United and Middlesbrough, plus tonight’s Merseyside derby.
Coutinho is eyeing a return to action against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, and in an update on Marko Grujic‘s Instagram, the No. 10 looked to be one step closer.
Grujic and Coutinho were pictured in training kit, with the Serbian also recovering from an injury of his own.
Looks like Grujic and Coutinho are back in training today… #LFC pic.twitter.com/pmrrnB7Fvt
— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) December 19, 2016
Coutinho is set to begin light training as he works his way back, in what is a major boost for the Reds. He will likely be doing running and fitness work alongside Grujic today, with the aim to return to full training with the rest of the squad next week ahead of the City game.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side had struggled in his absence, losing at Bournemouth and drawing with West Ham, but looked to have adjusted well in the 3-0 victory away to Middlesbrough on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, the prospect of moving Roberto Firmino back into his regular central role, with Coutinho taking up his position on the left, is a positive one for the boss.
If Coutinho is available from the end of the year, Klopp will be able to navigate the absence of Sadio Mane in January, with the winger due to depart for the Africa Cup of Nations with the Senegal squad.
Meanwhile, Grujic, who has suffered with a tendon issue, can swell Klopp’s midfield ranks, though his game time has been limited so far this season.
Daniel Sturridge is also recovering from injury, with the striker also missing since the Sunderland clash with a calf problem.
Klopp has been forced to call upon youngsters Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn this December, though he has been reluctant to field them in high-pressure encounters.
He had been expected to dip into the January transfer market to add to his forward ranks, but with Quincy Promes set to remain with Spartak Moscow and Borussia Dortmund eager to retain Christian Pulisic, his options are dwindling.
Divock Origi has been in fine form in Coutinho’s absence, and will be looking to add to his tally of five goals in his last five games in the Merseyside derby on Monday night.
Even without Mane, Liverpool’s attacking options of Firmino, Coutinho, Sturridge and Origi, with Woodburn, Ejaria and Sheyi Ojo among those as cover, should prove a formidable setup.