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Liverpool pre-season sessions suggest Philippe Coutinho role is returning

Liverpool ‘s pre-season matches suggest that Philippe Coutinho’s role is returning to Jurgen Klopp’s line-up.

Although the playmaking Brazilian himself is not expected to be back come the Reds’ opener at Norwich City in less than three weeks’ time, the responsibility he had in the side under Klopp prior to his January 2018 departure may well be.

Coutinho was sold to Barcelona for £142 million and despite losing his quality, the funds Liverpool recouped helped the club to bring in the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson as they lifted the Champions League trophy less than 18 months later.

Klopp didn’t directly replace the now-29-year-old, but instead shifted to a much more functional midfield, usually consisting of Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and later, Fabinho.

Coutinho’s lucrative departure allowed Klopp to mould his Champions League and Premier League-winning side

It worked wonders on Merseyside as the Reds picked up their first Premier League title for 30 years in 2020, then adding creativity from deep in the form of Thiago last summer.

However, Liverpool weren’t at their rampant best in 2020-21, particularly struggling for goals in a dire post-Christmas period.

Criticism was mainly levied at their attack, but Klopp’s midfield also lacked creative spark.

Now, the German manager looks to be making a tactical tweak within his favoured 4-3-3 formation that could allow the Reds to be free-flowing once more.

In the two pre-season matches, youngster Harvey Elliott has taken up a place in the midfield three after signing a new long-term contract.

Having spent last term on loan at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship, the 18-year-old mostly operated on the left flank, helping form a formidable attack in the second tier as the Blue and Whites scored 65 goals, despite finishing 15th.

Only four teams bettered Tony Mowbray’s side’s tally – all of whom were in the top eight.

Should Liverpool look to alter their system for the new season? Comment your thoughts below.

Elliott scored seven goals and laid on 11 for his team-mates in Lancashire, and was statistically a force to be reckoned with; ranking among the best in the division for the highest average number of key passes and shot assists for attackers under the age of 24.

Elliott’s displays in Austria for Liverpool against Bundesliga sides Stuttgart and Mains 05 have been promising, as he has shown plenty of drive and dynamism, although he’s yet to directly contribute to a goal.

Klopp has picked out the teenager after both matches and has previously described him as a “special player.”

Elliott has been a breath of fresh air in midfield during Liverpool's pre-season camp
Elliott has been a breath of fresh air in midfield during Liverpool’s pre-season camp

Ahead of pre-season, he told the Reds’ website : “Harvey made a step [on loan], I have to say. He looks in a proper shape, really, really fit.

“He came back in a good shape and is here now in full training obviously.

“You can see last year really worked well for him. Now let’s make the next steps together.”

Elliott himself said: “It’s not going to come around and be given to me.

“I need to work hard for it,” regarding making the lofty grade at Anfield.

“It’s down to me; I need to show the people I am ready, I need to show the gaffer I am ready, but I am certain I can do it.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Liverpool eventually paid Fulham £4.3 million for the Craven Cottage wonderkid in 2019 after a length tribunal.

He’s a Reds man now, though, and is even taking diet advice from Mohamed Salah.

Not a bad player to emulate but it’ll be Coutinho who he may truly need to mirror.

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