Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool boss Klopp quashes fears his relationship with Coutinho is harmed

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has quashed fears his relationship with Philippe Coutinho has been harmed by the Brazilian's desire to join Barcelona.

Coutinho, who is currently sidelined by injury and illness, handed in a transfer request earlier this month when Barca's interest emerged but the Reds look set to hang on to the 25-year-old midfielder having rebuffed three bids for him.

He must therefore accept his immediate future lies at Anfield, while Klopp insists the whole saga has not caused any rift between player and manager.

"Of course, everything is okay between me and him," Klopp said. "Absolutely, 100 per cent."

Regarding suggestions a deadline imposed by Barcelona to complete a deal had now elapsed, Klopp replied: "I never give any comment to whatever's written or said but it's 100 per cent clear that nothing's changed."

A back injury suffered in pre-season has so far prevented Coutinho from featuring this season and Klopp revealed the Brazilian now has a bout of sickness.

He will therefore be absent when the Reds face Hoffenheim in the second leg of their Champions League play-off on Wednesday, and Klopp is unsure exactly when Liverpool fans will see Coutinho back on the pitch.

"He can't start because on top of that (injury) he's now ill," the German added.

"It will take time because he has not trained for a long time. I've no idea at this moment (when he will return), we would have to check when he is back."

In Coutinho's absence Liverpool won at Hoffenheim last week where a 2-1 success has given them the advantage ahead of Wednesday's return leg at Anfield.

The Merseyside stadium, famed for its atmosphere on European nights, has not hosted a continental cup game since May 2016 and Klopp wants his players to feed off the noise for a tie he believes is far from over.

"The first game was good enough to get the result, the second game needs to be better," he admitted.

"Anfield is a main factor, we all know it. It's a very special place.

"Nothing happens by itself, we have to perform, deliver. We all know the atmosphere can and will help you.

"I would be concerned if people would think it's a weak side coming from Hoffenheim and we need to be dominant and each pass gets a moan.

"It will not happen because I know we have a football crowd and they know about the quality. We are ready to fight."

The Reds may not even need to score to progress to the group stage, yet defender Joel Matip has warned they will not change their approach to be more cautious due to their slender advantage.

"We go into this match and start like it's 0-0," Matip insisted.

"It doesn't help when we only try to defend and play for a 0-0. We want to play like we always play, we don't want to change our style because of the first game."

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