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Coutinho closing in on return


Philippe Coutinho has been sidelined since the Liverpool's draw at Swansea in September

Philippe Coutinho has been sidelined since the Liverpool's draw at Swansea in September

Philippe Coutinho has been sidelined since the Liverpool's draw at Swansea in September

Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho is edging closer to a first-team return after a shoulder operation.

The Brazilian has been sidelined since the 2-2 draw at Swansea on September 16 and while Brendan Rodgers does not think he will be ready for Saturday's visit of West Brom, the Reds boss is eagerly awaiting his comeback.

"He might just be short for this weekend," Rodgers said.

"I think, after the weekend, he'll be fine. He has got really good strength in his shoulder now, it's just getting him up to speed in training and joining the group.

"He has rejoined training with the group. He's been on the field doing a lot of physical work and he has joined in with the team on a non-contact basis.

"He has been in the last couple of days and has looked brilliant to be honest, like he has never been away with his flow and fluency with the ball.

"His work has been excellent. It's great to see him back in and it's another quality player back for us.

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"You always miss quality."

Injury and suspension means Rodgers has so far this season been denied the opportunity to play his primary attacking triumvirate of Daniel Sturridge, Luis Suarez and Coutinho.

But while the latter was the man pulling all the strings in the final third before his injury the other two have not been adversely affected.

Sturridge has maintained his impressive form since joining in January with his goal in the 2-2 draw at Newcastle last weekend taking his tally to 20 in 26 appearances.

In doing so he became the quickest player to hit 20 career goals for Liverpool since Fred Pagnam reached the landmark after 22 matches in 1915.

The club's record goalscorer Ian Rush has backed Sturridge to break the 20-goal barrier this season but Rodgers insists he has not given the striker a specific aim.

"The way I've always worked with Daniel is I don't set him goal targets - I think he's a natural goalscorer," said the Reds boss.

"For me, the communication and the talk with Daniel is about him getting into areas and working hard.

"I think you've seen already this season the types of goals he can score, whether it be with his head, his left foot, his right foot, his pace or his power.

"I believe he's a natural goalscorer, it's just about him understanding his role in the team, with the ball and the intensity without the ball."

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