What a week for Liverpool - and what a week for Coutinho.
Two huge Premier League wins, over Southampton and Manchester City, have the Reds well and truly in the mix for Champions League qualification.
Elimination from the Europa League in midweek was not ideal, but Liverpool fans will not care a jot if it helps the club qualify for the competition’s more illustrious cousin.
With Brendan Rodgers wisely nursing Daniel Sturridge back to full fitness carefully, it’s been left to Raheem Sterling and Coutinho to shoulder the load going forward.
While early in the season Sturridge’s absence was keenly felt, those defeats and Liverpool’s poor start may have actually provided the platform for Coutinho to come to the fore.
The Brazilian has been thrust into a more prominent role this season. Last year he was briefly benched in the second half of a campaign that so nearly resulted in a Premier League title.
He was inconsistent, lightweight and a luxury Brendan Rodgers could not afford. That was until his match winning contribution against Manchester City just under 12 months ago, a game that looked to have put Liverpool over the edge.
Of course that wasn’t the case, but Coutinho has stepped up a gear again this year. There is no danger he will be benched anytime soon.
Out of the shadow of Sturridge and Suarez, he has arguably usurped Sterling as Liverpool’s main man this season.
Manchester City could not get near him. He gave Yaya Toure and Fernandinho the run-around all afternoon, picking the ball up in pockets of space and driving at the vulnerable pairing of Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala.
His persistence set up Jordan Henderson’s goal, and his match-winning strike was every bit as stunning.
Struggles for City
City gave him too much space. Criticism of their Barcelona performance carried over here, and Liverpool were good enough to punish it, just like the Catalans. Worrying times for Manuel Pellegrini, as City have now won just three of their last 10 games.
Defensively they look a shadow of previous sides, but Coutinho, Sterling and Lallana gamely took advantage. Considering the squad’s collective effort over 120 minutes in Turkey, it was a truly superhuman performance.
Coutinho was one of those rested for the Europa League, a move that paid dividends and highlights Rodgers's clever management of limited options. The Liverpool boss completely dominated Pellegrini from a tactical perspective, taking advantage of City's overmatched midfield.
The return of Sturridge has been the catalyst to Liverpool’s revival and Sterling remains electric in fits and starts. But it’s Coutinho who is the new driving force for this Reds team.
The Anfield side are up to fifth now, and are the form team in the race for the top four. With Southampton on the slide, it looks like it will come down to Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs for the final two spots behind City and Chelsea.
The last 11 games of the Premier League season should be fascinating. Don't bet against Coutinho proving the difference again.
What do you think Liverpool fans? Is Coutinho now your most important player? Have your say below!
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