Coutinho is class act – Rodgers

Published: Friday 23rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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

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.

Bolton are set to start with former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey in attack following Craig Davies’ latest setback.

The Welsh international has pulled his hamstring again and faces three weeks out, so Heskey should be at the fulcrum of Wanderers’ attack on his old stomping ground.

Midfielder Lee Chung-yong has a hairline fracture of his leg which boss Neil Lennon described as “minuscule” and will only miss one-to-two weeks.

Zach Clough (hamstring) may feature for the first time since his impressive debut in the last round but Joe Mason has returned to Cardiff and Marc Tierney (ankle), Mark Davies and Max Clayton (both knee) remain absent.

Boss Lennon is happy to place Bolton’s FA Cup prospects in the hands of a couple of golden oldies this weekend as Heskey and Eidur Gudjohnsen head to Anfield aiming to turn back the clock.

Injury-hit Wanderers will meet Rodgers’ Liverpool on Merseyside and bid to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition Heskey won with the red half of Merseyside in 2001.

Both he and former Chelsea striker Gudjohnsen, who at 36 is one year Heskey’s junior, were in the prime of their careers as two of English football’s most potent forwards during the first half of the previous decade.

And while recapturing that form may be beyond the two elder statesmen now, Lennon had no reservations about signing a duo with 140 international caps between them back in December as he stated the case for his two senior strikers.

“There is this myth once you hit 30; it’s absolute rubbish,” he stressed.

“I’ve played against (Paolo) Maldini, (Alessandro) Costacurta, (Paul) Scholes, Xavi – all in their mid-30s.

“Xavi, when he was 32, 33, was still one of the best players in the world by a considerable distance.

“Some managers go that way, some don’t. I don’t. I just see the ability and what they can offer and I know the motivation of the players which I think is very important.

“I’m at a different level from these top managers obviously at the minute but there’s no doubt that Emile and Eidur have certainly made us better.”

Published: Friday 23rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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