Liverpool have received a substantial fitness boost with the news that Philippe Coutinho is likely to be available for this weekend's eagerly anticipated Premier League showdown with rivals Manchester United. The Brazilian playmaker has been sidelined since damaging ankle ligaments during November's 2-0 win over Sunderland, but returned to full first-team training on Friday (6 January).
While Coutinho was never likely to feature in the frustrating FA Cup third round goalless draw against Plymouth Argyle, Jurgen Klopp nevertheless insisted that he was in a "very good way". The 24-year-old now looks set to be included in the matchday squad for Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg against Southampton, and will no doubt be eager to prove his fitness ahead of the key trip to Old Trafford.
"I think Phil is fit enough for being part of the squad," Klopp was quoted as saying by the official Liverpool website at his pre-Saints press conference. "That means it could be minutes, how much I don't know. It depends on the game, of course. He is on a very good way.
"It was six or seven weeks, something like this, so that's long. And so he needs minutes in training, especially, but then of course as soon as possible minutes in games.
"We will see how we do it, there [has been] no final decision made until now. I think [today] was the third complete session he did with the team, tomorrow again would be the fourth. It's not that many, but for being in the squad, I think it's enough. And then we will see."
James Milner now has "no issues" following a minor calf injury, while the manager is hopeful that captain Jordan Henderson, who sustained a heel problem during the New Year's Eve defeat of Manchester City, will be back at Melwood on Thursday. He could also be in contention to feature against Manchester United.
Centre-back Joel Matip is said to have taken his "first steps" in training following an ankle issue, as has Marko Grujic following a tendon complaint. Goalkeeper Adam Bogdan and striker Danny Ings are Liverpool's only long-term absentees.
Klopp made 10 changes and named the youngest starting XI in club history for the aforementioned clash with League Two promotion contenders Plymouth, but will revert back to his strongest team against Southampton as eight-time winners and beaten 2015 finalists Liverpool seek to reach the League Cup final for the second successive season.
Klopp also claimed it was "pretty likely" that much-maligned goalkeeper Loris Karius would retain the gloves at St Mary's ahead of rival Simon Mignolet, who replaced him as first-choice between the posts ahead of last month's emphatic win at Middlesbrough.
In other news, Liverpool have also confirmed that their replay against Plymouth will take place at Home Park on 18 January at 7.45pm GMT. It will be only the second meeting between the two sides since 1962.