By Alex Stevens
Jurgen Klopp has suggested that Philippe Coutinho is “unlikely” to be fit for Liverpool’s Premier League showdown against Manchester City.
Coutinho had targeted the clash at Anfield on New Year’s Eve against Liverpool’s title rivals as his comeback match.
The Brazilian playmaker, who Jamie Carragher hailed on Friday as the best player in the Premier League for the calendar year of 2016, has been sidelined for a month with ankle ligament damage.
But manager Klopp claimed on Friday morning that Coutinho is not ready for a recall as he has yet to return to training with the senior squad.
“He was in a very good way, then a reaction, but he’s in a good way again,” said Klopp, as quoted by the Mirror live blog at 1.08pm. “I don’t think it will be a long time.
“Everybody was thinking about the City game for example, this will be very unlikely. It was a dream of Phil. It’s not more likely than before, but I don’t want to say impossible.”
Liverpool host Stoke at Anfield on 27 December before City visit their title rivals four days later.
Coutinho has missed Liverpool’s last five matches after breaking down in the team’s 2-0 win over Sunderland on 26 November.
In his absence, Klopp’s team have won two of their four league encounters and knocked Leeds out of the League Cup to progress to the semi-final.
Coutinho began the campaign in dazzling form as one member of an electrifying front three also including Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Fans will be hugely disappointed that he is unlikely to make the City game given his importance to second-placed Liverpool.
In other Liverpool team news, a Sky Sports pundit has named the most important player in Klopp’s side and says it’s not Coutinho.