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World Cup 2018

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Liverpool ready to launch Coutinho into action in bid to boost Champions League start

By Evan Bartlett

Liverpool fans will have to wait until an hour before kick-off against Sevilla to find out if Philippe Coutinho is returning to first-team action after manager Jurgen Klopp offered a tantalising update on his status.

The playmaker is yet to feature for the Reds this season following his summer long transfer saga with Barcelona.

The 25-year-old's return was delayed due to a back injury that cleared up in time for him to feature for the Brazil national team in the recent international break but he did not play a part in Liverpool's heavy defeat to Manchester City at the weekend.

Asked if Coutinho would start in the Champions League opener at Anfield, Klopp clearly did not want to give too much away.

"I could give you an idea at this stage," the German said last night. "But I'm sure Liverpool supporters around the world are ready to wait another 24 hours. He is fit, he is healthy.

"All the information about the line-up you will have to wait until tomorrow. But he is here."

Klopp also said he was not surprised that Liverpool lost their appeal over Sadio Mane's red card but insisted the club had a "duty" to challenge the length of the three-match ban.

The Senegalese forward was sent off for a high boot on Ederson which saw the City goalkeeper require eight stitches in his face.

A statement from the Football Association yesterday said: "Sadio Mane's three-match suspension, which was effective immediately, remains in place after his claim of excessive punishment was rejected following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing."

Mane will miss Saturday's Premier League visit of Burnley plus the Carabao Cup/league double-header with Leicester next week. The 25-year-old collided with Ederson after 37 minutes of the 5-0 league defeat at the Etihad Stadium.

The Brazilian needed around eight minutes of treatment before he was taken off on a stretcher. A photograph released since has shown eight stitches in wounds on the side of his face.

He was able to return to the City bench in the second half, and yesterday trained - wearing protective head gear - ahead of tonight's Champions League match at Feyenoord.

"I'm not sure if I'm disappointed, I didn't expect anything different," said Klopp. "I thought our appeal was absolutely right."

Klopp also insisted that although Mane was upset with the injury to Ederson, he must not change the way he plays.

"The most important thing for me to say is not even one per cent of Sadio wanted to bring the goalkeeper in danger. He wanted to get the ball," he said.

"It's important he wants to do that in all the games he plays.

"I don't blame the ref for the decision. He didn't give the red card immediately, but when he saw the player bleeding, I would have made the same decision."

Independent News Service

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