Philippe Coutinho willing to play through the pain barrier to lead Liverpool's top four charge

John Percy
Philippe Coutinho  celebrates his goal at Stoke - Getty Images Europe

Philippe Coutinho could prove the crucial figure in Liverpool’s Champions League mission and has surely killed off any lingering question marks over his commitment.

It would have been easy for Coutinho to stay at home on Saturday, after losing over three kilograms through illness, but his desire to make himself available will not have gone unnoticed by Jurgen Klopp.

The Brazilian’s appearance as a second-half substitute against Stoke breathed fresh hope into Liverpool’s top four ambitions and he is running into form at a crucial stage of the season.

Coutinho was probably rushed back too soon from the ankle injury in November but is now showing glimpses of the form that had him earmarked as a potential PFA Player of the Year earlier in the campaign.

With Sadio Mane out for the final six games there is added pressure on Coutinho to step up but it appears to be a burden he is willing to embrace.

Roberto Firmino celebrates with Coutinho after the pair delivered an incredible comeback against Stoke

"I joined up in the morning [of the game]. They asked me to stay at home because I was not feeling well but I wanted to be here. I wanted to be involved with the team. The manager decided because I was not 100 per cent,” he said.

“I want to keep going to keep scoring and helping my team and keep learning from my manager. This was a big win. There are a lot of points to fight for and every game for us is important.”

Klopp was acutely aware of the significance of this victory and arguably got out of jail after opting for a bewildering line-up, starting with Coutinho and matchwinner Roberto Firmino on the bench.

Liverpool were lacklustre in the first half but the introduction of the two Brazilians completely altered the direction of the game. Coutinho’s equaliser was beautifully taken while Firmino’s winner 18 minutes from time was excellent, lifting the club into third place.

Simon Mignolet saves from Saido Berahino Credit: REUTERS

It was also a day for goalkeepers. Simon Mignolet produced a brilliant save from Saido Berahino while goalkeeping coach John Achterberg won the sweepstake from the Grand National.

"My life is making decisions, and some of them are good, after the game you can see it obviously worked, and some of them are not,” said Klopp. “So if we lose today 1-0 then the whole world probably would have said: 'what have you done'.

"I understand completely when I make a decision like that then if it goes wrong then I will get the criticism. That is my life - the life of a coach!”

Stoke 1 - 1 Liverpool (Philippe Coutinho, 70 min)

Stoke have now lost four games in a row and appear in freefall, but should have enough points to avoid getting sucked into a relegation battle.

They face Hull City at home next weekend and Hughes will be targeting a victory to ensure he can silence a minority of supporters demanding change. He should have credit in the bank after three successive ninth-placed finishes yet this current Stoke squad certainly needs shaking up.

Jon Walters did give them the lead but they faded badly in the second half, with Marko Arnautovic producing one of his most frustrating performances in a Stoke shirt.

Geoff Cameron, the midfielder, said: “It’s a bad run and you can say they’re bad results but if you dwell on the negative that’s only going to affect you for the rest of the season.

“We’ve got to start getting some wins under our belt and we know that. We should be a lot higher than where we are when you look at the talent in the changing room.”

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