Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has no concerns about the form of Philippe Coutinho despite the Brazilian struggling in the second half of the season.
Coutinho, 24, was one of the stand-out performers during the first four months of the campaign, scoring six times in his first 12 appearances and creating numerous other chances.
However, he missed seven weeks with an ankle injury sustained at the end of November, and his only goal in the dozen matches he has played since coming back was a consolation effort in the 3-1 defeat at Leicester.
He was substituted after an hour in last weekend’s win over Burnley, but Klopp is prepared to be patient.
“That’s the life of an outstandingly good football player like Phil,” he said. “The influence of him on the game is really big. If he is not at 100 percent you miss something, that’s how it is.
“But two weeks ago we played Arsenal and he did really well. Yes, Burnley again was not the best game, but he misses in this moment — which is pretty normal after a long injury — this kind of consistency.
“But the training week so far was perfect, he presented himself really well; it was fluent, confident and looked really well.
“There are always steps in this direction. Sometimes it works. It’s about, in this moment, consistency but he is in a really good way.”
Klopp will hope for a big performance from Coutinho against top-four rivals Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, especially with fitness doubts hanging over Roberto Firmino and striker Divock Origi.
With Daniel Sturridge still not recovered from a hip injury which has kept him out since early February and fellow striker Danny Ings ruled out for the season with a serious knee problem, Liverpool’s forward line looks light.
Captain Jordan Henderson is not expected to return from a foot problem until the Merseyside derby after the international break, but on the positive front defender Dejan Lovren is fully fit after a 75-minute run out for the under-23s on Monday.
Klopp does not believe fatigue is catching up with his players heading into the final 10 matches of the campaign.
“It’s an intense season and things like this can happen. All the injuries we had were different, different players had a few more during the season,” he said.
“Dejan Lovren had, for four weeks, a knee issue — nothing was fatigue. It’s kind of [because] the body is a very complex thing and sometimes a little thing has a big influence.
“We took a little time to find the cause, a lot of specialists were looking for it, then he was fit again and he got a knee in his back when we trained set-pieces. That happens too.
“There are different reasons for it, for all of us, it’s a long season and especially players who play for their national teams.
“No breaks, it’s always: ‘Go, go, go.’ That makes it more likely that you pick up a few injuries.”