Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho starred as Brazil enjoyed an emphatic World Cup-qualifying victory in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Coutinho scored a stunning goal in the 3-0 win over Paraguay in Sao Paulo. He and club mate Roberto Firmino featured for 87 minutes prior to their dash back to Merseyside for this weekend’s derby match.
Having lost Adam Lallana for the visit of Everton, Jurgen Klopp will be buoyed by the sight of Coutinho rediscovering his form for his country.
The midfielder has been struggling since his return from an ankle injury. Before his setback in November, Coutinho was one of the front-runners for the Premier League’s player of the year.
GOLAÇO DE COUTINHO! Assist Paulinho.— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStat) March 29, 2017
Brasil 1-0 Paraguai. pic.twitter.com/1QwJ3PgZ5G
His momentum was curtailed and he has been noticeably short of sharpness since his comeback. The strike for his country will be as enthusiastically received at Anfield as it was in the Arena Corinthians.
Coutinho scored the opening goal on 34 minutes, exchanging passes with Paulinho on the edge of the penalty area before finding the bottom corner with his left foot.
Neymar and Marcelo extended the lead in the second half and the victory effectively ensures Brazil’s qualification for Russia next summer.
The Liverpool duo are now heading back to England on a private jet arranged by their club, with Klopp hopeful they will be available for training at Melwood on Thursday morning.
Given the club’s injury issues, the form and fitness of both has become critical to Liverpool’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League. Lallana could miss six of the last nine fixtures and Liverpool have no expectations of Daniel Sturridge making a contribution in the coming weeks.
Among the other Premier League-based contingent, Chelsea’s Willian was a late substitute - coming on in the 87th minute - and Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho stayed on the bench.