Jurgen Klopp to field Liverpool's top brass against Southampton as playmaker prepares to make comeback

 
Ross McLean
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Philippe Coutinho has been sidelined for more than six weeks with ankle ligament damage (Source: Getty)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he will field the strongest line-up at his disposal during his side’s EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday.

Klopp has also confirmed that Philippe Coutinho is primed for a return to action after being sidelined for more than six weeks with an ankle ligament injury.

The German was forced to defend his selection after picking the youngest starting XI in the club’s history during the Reds’ goalless FA Cup draw with Plymouth on Sunday, but is adamant he will not take any further chances with Wembley beckoning.

“Wednesday, the best team we can play, that’s how it is,” said Klopp, who guided Liverpool to the League Cup final last year during his first season in charge at Anfield.

“I think Phil is fit enough to be a big part of the squad. It means there could be minutes. It depends on the game. It’s been six or seven weeks. It’s long.”

Southampton counterpart Claude Puel, meanwhile, has conceded that the speculation surrounding skipper Jose Fonte’s future has tainted preparations for the tie.

Fonte has been excluded from the matchday squad after handing in a transfer request, having turned down the club’s offer of a contract extension. Puel said: “It is perhaps a little difficult because of the situation with Jose.”