There is little difference between Jurgen Klopp’s two teams, Philippe Coutinho shows why he has been missed and other things we learned from West Ham 2 Liverpool 1

By Editor Wayne Veysey

Coutinho can revitalise Liverpool’s season

Much of the focus on Liverpool’s returning players has been on Daniel Sturridge after yet another prolonged absence. But it is another comeback kid, Coutinho, who is likely to have a far bigger impact on whether Klopp’s first season is judged to be a success or not. The Brazilian magician showed in his 58-minute run-out why he has been sorely missed over the last five weeks. He scored the equaliser with a cheeky low free-kick – his fourth goal in six FA Cup appearances – and also hit a post with a left-footed strike in the first half. He offered penetration and dynamism, something lacking from the team in recent times. Liverpool fans are now looking forward to seeing him combine with the in-form Roberto Firmino.

There is little to split Klopp’s two teams

The Merseysiders made 10 changes from the team that threw away a two-goal lead against Sunderland at the weekend. Watching the visitors dominate a full-strength West Ham side, there is little difference between the group of players who labour through so many Premier League matches and the mixed bag of youths, seniors and comeback kids utilised in the cups. Despite the extra-time defeat, perhaps Klopp should shake things up against Aston Villa on Sunday by dropping a few of the weekend regulars and handing extended opportunities to some of the up-and-coming players.

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No light at end of tunnel for Benteke

Plan B or C in the league, at least Christian Benteke knows he is going to get a game in Liverpool’s never-ending run of cup fixtures. He led the line reasonably well at Upton Park, looking particularly dangerous from set pieces, but did not do enough to suggest he should be fast-tracked back into the weekend side. If ever a striker needs a goal to release the pressure, it is the Belgian. Three half chances came his way in the opening period when he lost his marker, but Benteke was unable to convert them. It was in extra time, though, that the striker wasted three excellent opportunities – a volley that he smashed wide, a one-on-one that he hit straight at rookie keeper Darren Randolph and then a header that he blazed over. He is going to have to get used to the bench.

Smith is ready to oust Moreno

The more the young left-back plays, the more impressive he is. Brad Smith was one of Liverpool’s best attacking players as he bombed forward at every opportunity and produced a string of dangerous deliveries from his flank. HIs energy was as impressive as his sense of adventure. He also defended competently. Smith has showed such encouraging signs during his run-outs in the cup games that it is surely only a matter of time before he ousts the infuriating Alberto Moreno from the league side.

Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool

Sturridge immediately looks the part

Rusty? Naturally. Oozing quality? Of course. Daniel Sturridge made his first appearance after a 15-game absence as a second-half substitute and was an immediate danger with his quick feet and intelligence. The addition of extra time meant an hour-long run-out for the injury-plagued striker. Will he be fit to feature against Aston Villa on Sunday? Don’t hold your breath.