When the Liverpool squad for their Champions League play-off with Hoffenheim was released there were two names that everyone went looking for, but neither of them were included on the team-sheet with both Daniel Sturridge, who is still recovering from a thigh problem, and Philippe Coutinho, who is nursing a back injury and a visions of moving to Catalonia, missing out on the trip to Germany.
“He is in a good way,” said Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, both simultaneously ruling the Englishman out of the meeting with the Sinsheim outfit and saying that he should be available against Crystal Palace at the weekend. “We had a talk this morning and he was really close, he looked good yesterday,” added the Liverpool manager, sounding upbeat. “Two more sessions and he will be available for the weekend.”
While that’s good news for Liverpool, they could very well be behind the kosh heading in to the second leg at Anfield. Hoffenheim, having finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, were unbeaten at home throughout the entirety of the campaign and have shown that they’re no pushovers. While it’s unlikely that Sturridge would have started even if he was available, there’s absolutely no doubt that Coutinho would have played a part at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena as the Reds chase a spot in the Group Stages of the Champions League. The Brazilian has been nursing a back injury since the club’s final pre-season friendly with Athletico Bilbao, but there’s reason to believe that his ongoing absence has more to do with the transfer request he handed in on Friday than some sore muscles.
“We have to prepare for this game without him like we have to prepare for it without Adam Lallana, or Daniel Sturridge,” explained Klopp, fielding the inevitable questions about Coutinho. “I really understand people’s interest in this. But I can’t say that, in this moment, I am really thinking about it. I wasn’t in the car thinking about ‘what can I say if they ask about this’? I work with the players I have,” stressed the German. “I don’t think about the players I don’t have.”