With Christian Benteke out, Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood focuses on stopping Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho

The Villa boss believes the Brazilian playmaker will cause problems for his side in Saturday's match at Anfield.

Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood has lavished praise on Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho at his pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Anfield.

Villa’s meeting with Liverpool was supposed to feature a reunion with former Holt End favourite Christian Benteke, who made a £32.5 million summer move to Merseyside after the Reds activated the release clause in his contract.

The 24-year-old striker suffered a hamstring injury in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City, however, and has now been ruled out of the weekend’s game along with Roberto Firmino and Dejan Lovren.

Despite the Belgium international’s absence, though, Sherwood acknowledges that the hosts will have a number of other potential game-changers available to them on the afternoon, including the fit-again Daniel Sturridge and, above all, main man Coutinho.

After recording eight goals and six assists in 58 games last season, the Brazilian has been one of Liverpool’s few bright spots amid their slow start to this term and the Villa boss admits that his defence will have to find a way to contain him if they want to earn a positive result.

Asked about Liverpool’s main threats, Sherwood said: “I don't think Christian would be a threat sitting in the stand. My worry is not Christian, it's Liverpool - a sleeping giant who feel wounded and ready to come out and perform.

“I'm not sure how many strikers they've actually got - probably six. They've got a lot of good strikers but Philippe Coutinho has been fantastic from start to finish since he's come into the Premier League.

“He plays in that little hole, like Jack Grealish - but he's a different type. He's smaller, nippy and can open you up and score goals. He scores spectacular goals.”

While Villa are sitting in 17th-place in the Premier League table after taking just four points from their first six games, Liverpool have not fared much better, having failed to win their last four top-flight matches.

They also required penalties to get past League Two’s Carlisle United in Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup third round tie after a 1-1 draw after extra-time, leading a growing number of fans to call for manager Brendan Rodgers to be sacked.

Nevertheless, Sherwood is not taking notice of their recent form and anticipates a tough matchup, adding: “We're not taking too much notice of how they've done recently.

“I did see that they played the other night. They won - and had 45 shots at goal. I think the Carlisle goalkeeper is having a few weeks off!”

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