Europe most likely as Reds chase glory on two fronts
Dubious reports in the Spanish press this week claimed that Philippe Coutinho will refuse to play for Liverpool in the Champions League this season.
Typical nonsense from a media outlet that has consistently been wrong about everything all summer, but it will be interesting to see if the Brazilian is named in Jurgen Klopp’s line up next week against Sevilla.
Not because there’s a question about whether Coutinho would agree to play, the issue here is whether he should be considered for selection so quickly after downing tools. His conduct since Barcelona first bid for him has been deplorable and many supporters feel there has to be consequences for those actions.
Rewarding him by immediately recalling him to the squad does not seem like the kind of move Klopp would make, but it’s a difficult balancing act because the Brazilian is clearly an important player and needs to be re-integrated into the squad sooner rather than later. Just how soon is the question Klopp must ask himself.
The team has done well without Coutinho, with the 4-0 win over Arsenal the highlight to date, and even if the Barcelona thing hadn’t happened he shouldn’t be in the line up this weekend at Manchester City as he’d upset the balance of the side. After that game though Klopp will need to rotate, and Coutinho could come into contention for the Champions League clash with Sevilla at Anfield.
The Reds have only appeared in the Champions League once in the last six years, and that was barely worthy of mention given how poorly they performed. Despite this, Liverpool are good value at 22/1 to become European Champions for a sixth time. In contrast, in a List of UK betting offers 2017/18 you can get 10/1 for them to win the Premier League.
The bookies favourites for the title are Manchester City, and the Reds will face Pep Guardiola’s men this weekend at the Etihad. City are odds on to win the game and the Reds are 3/1, which almost looks like buying money given Klopp’s record against the top sides, and City in particular.
Liverpool are as good as any team in the Premier League but there is a big disparity between them and the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea in the title odds. All three are a much shorter price than the Reds, despite the fact that when they meet it’s usually Klopp’s men that come out on top. Not taking care of business against the bottom half is the reason Liverpool are a distant fourth in the title betting.
With that in mind, Europe might be their best chance of success this year as the two legged format of the knock out stages suits Liverpool perfectly. Over two legs a defensive wobble can be overcome, especially if the second leg is at Anfield. The Premier League is tougher to win, Liverpool know that better than anybody having won the Champions League in 2005 while finishing fifth in their domestic league.
Liverpool’s best chance of winning either is if they can re-integrate Coutinho into the team and have him perform at his best level. For that to happen he’ll need to knuckle down and put his disappointment on hold. Liverpool need Coutinho, but Coutinho also needs Liverpool as it’s a World Cup year so he needs to be playing.
To hold down a place in this current Liverpool side he’ll need to be at his best because, unlike last year, Klopp has alternatives should Coutinho not be performing. If he is performing, with the rest of the attacking talent around him, this season may yet have a happy ending for Coutinho and Liverpool.