Brazil manager Tite has described Philippe Coutinho as “physically fit to play 90 minutes,” despite missing Liverpool’s first five games of the season.
The midfielder was not even present for their three outings at Anfield, with the club maintaining that he was sidelined with a back injury.
However, Coutinho reported for duty with Brazil this month, and came off the substitutes’ bench to score in last week’s 2-0 win over Ecuador.
And speaking ahead of his side’s World Cup qualifier against Colombia, Tite stressed that the midfielder was capable of playing a full 90 minutes, undermining previous claims.
But he added that Coutinho would not start, with Roberto Firmino set to be flanked by Willian and Neymar, and Paulinho, Fernandinho and Renato Augusto preferred in midfield.
“Coutinho is physically fit to play 90 minutes,” he told Globo Esporte.
“But I do not think that technically he will produce for 90 minutes, in a game of this size.
“Now, in a part of the game, I can count on him. But we think that technically he will not translate his mental and technical capacity due to his time out.”
Meanwhile, Firmino – who along with Coutinho, Willian, Gabriel Jesus and Ederson will travel back to England on a chartered flight directly after the game – was subject to considerable praise.
The Reds’ No. 9 has taken a step up in the early stages of this season, and Tite hailed his intelligence and combination play.
“Roberto Firmino will play because of his quality and because he has the level and we like his football,” he explained.
“He plays football with intelligence. His intelligence is one of his strong points, Firmino is a reference point in the scheme.
“At Liverpool he always makes space for Salah and Mane. He makes these intelligent combinations.”
The 25-year-old should start Saturday’s away clash against Jesus’ City, provided that he suffered no fitness issues while turning out for Brazil.
It is likely that Coutinho will face a wait before being brought back into Klopp’s starting lineup, however, as he comes to terms with a failed summer move to Barcelona.