• Premier League

Coutinho nearing Liverpool return

ESPN staff
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Philippe Coutinho has impressed for Liverpool since signing last season © PA Photos
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Philippe Coutinho is in line to make his Liverpool return in time for their key Premier League meeting with Arsenal on November 2 as he steps up his recovery from shoulder surgery.

Coutinho, 21, has been absent since damaging his shoulder during the 2-2 draw at Swansea in September.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has ruled out the possibility of the playmaker making his return against West Brom at Anfield on Saturday.

However, Coutinho is back in training, and Rodgers is looking forward to having him back in the side.

"He might just be short for this weekend," Rodgers said. "You always miss quality. He's rejoined the training group. Philippe's joined in with the team on a non-contact basis, and I would think after the weekend, he'll be fine.

"He's got really good strength in his shoulder now, so it's a case of getting him up to speed in training with the group. But he's been in the last couple of days and he's looked brilliant.

"It's like he's never been away, with the flow and fluency he is showing with the ball. His work has been excellent. It's great to see him back in and it's another quality player back for us."

Rodgers will have Lucas Leiva available again, after the midfielder missed last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Newcastle as he had just become a father.

"He was in the hospital for a couple of days and could have been available, but sometimes that can be a risk," Rodgers said.

"If you have lots of travel and lots of stress, mentally and physically in the body, sometimes you can go out there and injure yourself.

"But he's back in and has trained really well this week. He'll be back available in the squad."

Rodgers will be looking for Daniel Sturridge to continue the run of form that has made him the Premier League's leading scorer this season.

Sturridge, 24, netted his seventh league goal of the campaign last Saturday to earn Liverpool the draw at Newcastle. And former Reds striker Ian Rush has suggested that the England international could hit 30 goals this term.

Rodgers, for his part, believes Sturridge can become one of European football's top forwards over the next few years.

"I don't set Daniel a goal target. I think he's a natural goalscorer. It's just about him understanding his role in the team with the ball - and the intensity we need without the ball too, which is important," he said.

"I firmly believe that he can be one of the top strikers in European football over the next two to three years, as long as he continues to work hard."

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