Should Liverpool Be Bold and Start Philippe Coutinho Against Manchester City?

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Should Liverpool Be Bold and Start Philippe Coutinho Against Manchester City?
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool host Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday in what is arguably The Reds' biggest ever Premier League fixture.

A victory for Brendan Rodgers' side would leave them four more wins away from ending the club's 24-year wait for a league title, and their first since the Premier League was introduced.

Rodgers has the luxury of an almost fully fit squad, with only long-term injury casualty Jose Enrique unavailable. In recent weeks, the Northern Irishman has rotated his plethora of attacking talents dependent on the opposition, switching the formation in the process.

 

4-3-3 vs Midfield Diamond

The Liverpool boss changed to a midfield diamond for the away fixtures at Southampton and Manchester United last month—with Philippe Coutinho starting at St. Mary's and Raheem Sterling starting at Old Trafford.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In their last home game, against Tottenham, Rodgers went with both his creative attackers, lining up in a 4-3-3 shape and Coutinho in the midfield three, as was the case at home to Everton too. Both those games resulted in impressive, dominating football, and 4-0 victories. Similarly, the 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal too.

With that in mind, Rodgers will be tempted to play that same system and be bold with his selection; playing Coutinho alongside Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in the midfield three; and Sterling alongside Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge up front.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Coutinho was excellent in those Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal thrashings, but Manchester City pose a different threat and with their midfield options being one of the few to rival Liverpool's, Rodgers may look to include one of either Joe Allen or Lucas Leiva instead.

Last week's gritty performance at West Ham saw a half-time withdrawal of Coutinho, who has struggled sometimes in away games but excelled at home, with Lucas replacing his fellow Brazilian and the diamond shape returning. Sterling again impressed at the point of that diamond, as he did against Man United.

 

Man City

Jon Super

The last time the two sides met, at The Etihad back in December, Liverpool suffered a narrow defeat after Sterling was wrongly adjudged to be offside. That day Sturridge was unavailable and a very fluid front three of Coutinho, Sterling and Suarez caused City problems.

There is perhaps even a remote chance that Rodgers would throw a huge surprise and leave out Sturridge in order to facilitate Lucas or Allen in midfield, and have that same front three vs. City's defence. Either way, one would imagine that having Suarez up against Martin Demichelis could prove profitable for the home side, and having Coutinho to play passes in behind the Argentine would be effective.

Is a midfield of Gerrard, Henderson and Coutinho capable of matching up against City's threats of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Fernandinho and Jesus Navas? Navas' pace down the right in particular could mean that having Sterling in front of Jon Flanagan on Liverpool's left would be required for his work rate and defensive ability, making it hard to leave out the young Englishman.

Jon Super

 

Options

Should Rodgers play Coutinho vs City?

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The best part in this debate is that Rodgers has good options available. Ultimately, it will depend on how bold he wants to be; a team featuring Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling and Coutinho is extremely attacking and would be a huge signal of intent. It has certainly worked recently but would it work in a game of this magnitude?

Rodgers has shown no fear lately and he's unlikely to do so on Sunday.

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