Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has hailed Philippe Coutinho’s free-kick against West Ham as “one of the smartest in history” and is delighted to have him available for the Premier League clash with Aston Villa.
The Brazil international returned to action following a hamstring injury in the 2-1 FA Cup defeat this week and marked his comeback with a superb free-kick that he rolled beneath the jumping West Ham wall from 20 yards.
Coutinho is in line to be involved in Sunday’s game at Villa Park and Klopp is thrilled to see him return alongside striker Daniel Sturridge, as Liverpool aim to mount a final push for the top four.
“It was one of the smartest free-kicks in football history. It was really cool,” he said on Friday. “I don’t know many teams who he can’t play for. He’s had two injuries in the season and has to come back in his rhythm, and we will try to help him this way.
“Phil is always someone who can make a difference but he’s not alone, and it’s not about quality, but physical qualities. It’s not possible he’s 100 per cent but he’s in a really good way and that’s good news for sure.”
He added of Sturridge: “We need to think about how he can manage minutes but he made a big step in the last week and I’ve made no final decisions about line-up. Until now, everything is like it should be.”
Klopp deployed an attacking line-up against Slaven Bilic’s men, but he admits he will likely be a little more conservative against a Villa side battling for Premier League survival.
He said: “It was a risky formation but we want to win the game. We saw the chance for doing this but it isn’t a line-up that is likely for a Premier League game.
“You need balance and rhythm and you cannot force it by bringing on all your strikers. For this game it was okay. Christian and Daniel can play together, at Southampton Daniel and Divock [Origi], but it’s always about what you need for a special opponent. You can’t ignore the other team, you have to defend in different spaces.”
Christian Benteke endured another frustrating game against West Ham and is still yet to score in 2016, and, while Klopp is confident the Belgium striker will soon recapture his form, he admits returning to face his old club could place unnecessary pressure on the 25-year-old.
“I liked what I saw at West Ham. It isn’t the easiest period of his career but it would be a bigger problem if he wasn’t getting the chances,” he said.
“What we are doing is in the public interest so we cannot hide ourselves. I talked to him a few times, gave him some advice as a coach and human being, and he’s tried to come back to an easy moment.
“I don’t know if he returns with open arms or whistles, I do not know his situation. It’s all about work and circumstances and we will see what the line-up is.
“Sometimes players put themselves under more pressure when they face their former club. I don’t have the best experience of it.”
Klopp confirmed that Joe Allen is set to miss Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, while Dejan Lovren is also unlikely to have recovered from a muscle problem.