Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has given his backing to misfiring midfielder Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian's disappointing start to the season.
The 22-year-old has started three of the Reds' four league matches but last weekend's defeat to Aston Villa was the first time he completed 90 minutes, while he was also taken off in their Champions League win over Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets.
In Liverpool's best performance so far - the 3-0 win at Tottenham - Coutinho was left on the bench throughout and the early part of the campaign has seen him fail to showcase the talent he has displayed intermittently since his arrival in January 2013.
However, Rodgers has no doubt about the Brazilian's quality or ability.
"He's a brilliant young player, a fantastic young player," he said.
"I had planned to leave him out of the game against Aston Villa because he'd had a lot of travelling in the international week, and if we didn't have so many injuries he would have been given a rest on the side and then played in the Champions League game.
"We couldn't afford to do that. We had to play him, but it was great for him and his experience getting back into the Brazilian squad.
"I've got no qualms about him; he's a big, big talent. He has lit up the Premier League since he came to the club.
"He's going to have some games where he won't be at his best, but he always gives his best and that's all I ever ask of the players.
"The kid is a great boy who wants to do well. He's very conscious that I have absolutely no doubts about him."
Liverpool 2 Ludogorets 1 player ratings
Liverpool 2 Ludogorets 1 player ratings
1/11 Simon Mignolet
Collected a couple of dangerous crosses but at fault for Ludogorets goal. 5
2/11 Javi Manquillo
Didn't offer as much going forward as on the other flank, and when he did get into a scoring position blasted over the bar. Played a great first-time ball which Gerrard should have scored. 5
3/11 Alberto Moreno
Crucial tackles and clearances. Was a constant threat with pace down the left although his deliveries were mixed. At the other end, made some crucial tackles, with a particularly vital intervention late on. 7
4/11 Dejan Lovren
Threat from set-pieces and solid at the back with some strong headers and timely interventions. 6
5/11 Mamadou Sakho
Dutiful performance. Made a key tackle inside his own box just before half-time. 6
6/11 Steven Gerrard
Made some important tackles although not his most influential of nights until his late penalty. Should have scored header from close range. 6
7/11 Jordan Henderson
Sharp, tidy passing and showed eagerness to get things moving forward. Should have at least got a free header opportunity on target. 6
8/11 Philippe Coutinho
Busy, well involved. Good link up play with Sterling but struggled to really open things up. 5
9/11 Raheem Sterling
Usual, zippy self and a constant threat to the Bulgarian visitors without making as many in-roads as his energy deserved. 6
10/11 Adam Lallana
Constantly made runs beyond Balotelli and showed some skills. Couldn't get his shot away when in a great position. A little rusty. 5
11/11 Mario Balotelli
Showed willingness to get involved, even tackling back at times. Slipped over a little too often. Looked like it was going to be a frustrating night but broke the deadlock with his stabbed finish. 7
Coutinho has yet to produce at a consistently high level for a long period but has shown flashes of his undoubted potential.
One criticism which has been aimed at the diminutive midfielder previously is that he can sometimes be isolated because of the physicality in Premier League matches, but Rodgers rejected that.
"I don't think it's a question now if he can cope," said the manager.
"He's been here 18 months and you only need to measure him since he's been in and look at the big games where he's been absolutely brilliant.
"He's like any normal player - you'll sometimes be 6/10, you won't always be 9 or 10/10.
"Whilst he isn't at his best, the reliance isn't solely on him. If we are to succeed, it'll be about the whole team playing well.
"If he's not, there will be other players, he can have a rest and then he'll go again.
"There's no doubting whether he has the pace, power or strength because he's already shown in so many games he has all of those qualities."
There was mixed news on the injury front, with defender Martin Skrtel (knee) returning to training and full-back Glen Johnson (thigh) due to re-join the squad later in the week, although not early enough to be considered for Saturday's trip to West Ham.
England striker Daniel Sturridge (thigh) is pencilled in for a return next week, but midfielder Joe Allen (knee) is still at least a fortnight away while defender Jon Flanagan has been ruled out for some time.
"Jon, unfortunately, has just had an operation that will probably have him out for a few months, which is disappointing," Rodgers told liverpoolfc.com.
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