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Picking a Liverpool XI to Include Philippe Coutinho

MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 20:  Correia Philippe Coutinho of FC Internazionale Milano in action during the UEFA Europa League group H match between FC Internazionale Milano and FC Rubin Kazan at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on September 20, 2012 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

As with all youthful and exciting signings from South America, Philippe Coutinho arrives at Liverpool amidst a sea of high hopes, favourable reviews and well-viewed YouTube clips.
 
The 20-year-old Brazilian, whose £8.5 million move from Inter Milan was tied up a day before the closure of the January transfer window, wasn't involved in the Liverpool squad that so impressed in Sunday's 2-2 draw at Manchester City, with his new club giving him time to head back to Milan and prepare for his new life on Merseyside.
 
And time is exactly what the youngster will need.
 
Those who have viewed those YouTube clips or watched Coutinho in action during an impressive loan spell at Espanyol or in his fleeting career at Inter―where then manager Rafael Benitez and owner Massimo Moratti had high hopes for him in the beginning―will speak of a highly skillful player, one who is not afraid to take players on and seek to make the all-important shot or pass to a teammate. A "proper Brazilian," in other words.
 
Such players are always going to be welcomed into their team by fans. This is especially true for Liverpool given the dearth of attacking options that Brendan Rodgers has had to work with for the vast majority of this season, the young manager’s first with the eyes of the world thrust upon him.
 
However, since the signing of the so far hugely impressive Daniel Sturridge the team has another mobile focal point at the head of their attack, allowing Luis Suarez to roam around and cause his own special brand of havoc even more, and leaving just one more role in Liverpool's front three.
 
Stewart Downing is perhaps surprisingly the man currently in possession of that position, with maybe the man himself most surprised by just how things have turned for him following a well-publicised row with Rodgers and a series of below-par displays.
 
The England winger has been steady if not spectacular in the position, but as he holds off the challenges of the likes of Raheem Sterling, Fabio Borini, Oussama Assaidi and Suso, he will feel rightly proud. The arrival of Coutinho could eventually represent a fight he won't win, though.
 
Starting on either the left or right of a front three would certainly seem to suit Coutinho given Liverpool's style of play and the options available elsewhere, but as he adjusts to life in England then Downing and the rest will surely still be given their chances.

The rest of this campaign―and certainly the upcoming home matches against West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City―will be used to look to integrate Coutinho into both the Premier League and the Liverpool team, with Downing likely to be the unfortunate man to lose out in that scenario.

The current midfield three of Coutinho’s compatriot Lucas Leiva, the superstar that is Steven Gerrard and the ever-growing and ever-improving Jordan Henderson would provide an excellent platform for Coutinho to showcase his skills, with Sturridge and Suarez also available for him to link up with and look to spark off.

Those six playing in front of the defence and goalkeeper seen at Manchester City will give the Reds a strong platform to go on and look to impress in a final 13 games of the Premier League season which certainly don’t look at daunting as plenty of those which have gone before.

They could just be the games that see Coutinho begin to make an impact at Anfield, and turn all those high hopes into genuine beliefs.

He’s likely to be introduced into proceedings slowly, but Liverpool look to have got themselves a real talent and a player who―over time―could just help to provide a spark in what is starting to look a very exciting team.

A team set up for him to excel in.

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