Liverpool take special measures to protect Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino fitness

Andy Hunter
Liverpool hire jet for return of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino

Liverpool are taking no risks in their preparations for Saturday’s Merseyside derby by hiring a private jet to return Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino from international duty in Brazil.

The influential attacking duo are preparing to play in Brazil’s World Cup qualifier against Paraguay in São Paulo on Tuesday. The game is scheduled to start at 9.45pm local time – 1.45am on Wednesday BST – leaving them only two full days to prepare for Everton’s visit in the 12.30pm kick-off.

Liverpool’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, has sanctioned the rental of a jet to enable Coutinho and Firmino to return to training with Jürgen Klopp’s squad on Thursday.

The Anfield club has co-operated in the past with teams such as Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City to share travel costs for their Brazilian contingent, and hired a private jet to return Sadio Mané from the Africa Cup of Nations in January. They will consider it money well spent if Klopp’s side maintain their pursuit of Champions League qualification with victory in the derby.

Brazil boast a comfortable seven-point lead over second-placed Uruguay in qualification for the 2018 World Cup with five matches to play.

Crystal Palace’s chances of signing Mamadou Sakho permanently this summer, meanwhile, will be complicated by competition from Southampton and Napoli. The France defender has impressed during his loan spell at Selhurst Park having been frozen out of the first-team frame at Anfield by Klopp, but the terms of his January move did not include an option for Palace to buy.

Southampton, who may sell Virgil van Dijk at the end of the season, and Napoli are among the clubs interested in Sakho. Klopp has been circumspect about the 27-year-old’s long-term prospects at the club and it is unlikely he will play for the Liverpool manager again.

Liverpool paid £18m to sign Sakho from his boyhood club, PSG, in 2013 and would welcome an auction for his services this summer as they seek around £20m-plus.

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