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Coutinho’s Box of Tricks

Coutinho and David De Gea set for another epic showdown

At Old Trafford on Sunday, David De Gea produced an uncharacteristic error that gifted struggling Stoke City a point. Admittedly, it was a match Manchester United should have won  – the home side had over 67% possession, chalked-up 13 corners, while accumulating 24 shots in the process but goalkeeping mistakes tend to be costly and this was one such occasion.

It’s not often that De Gea is found wanting though and one only needs to look back to last season’s Europa League quarter final tie with Liverpool to understand how precarious the role of a goalkeeper can be.

In the first leg at Anfield, De Gea produced an outstanding display that just about kept United in the tie, after the Red Devils were completely outplayed.

United, trailing 2-0 from the 1st leg,  got themselves back into the tie in the first-half of the return leg at Old Trafford, until a moment of  magic, just before the interval, proved decisive. Philippe Coutinho skipped past Guillermo Varela before dinking a delightful chip over a bemused De Gea, who was well and truly bamboozled.

Liverpool’s Brazilian playmaker has been in sensational form this season and will have the United goalkeeper in his sights again, when two of football’s bitterest rivals meet at Anfield in Gameweek 8.

Stats provided by Oulala suggest that Coutinho, a regular fixture on many fantasy football team sheets, is an early contender for the ‘Player of the Year’ award and only one player, Zlatan Ibrahimović, has had more shots in the 2016/17 Premier League campaign than the Liverpool man to date.

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Coutinho and De Gea are away on International duty this week, with Brazil facing Bolivia and Venezuela in key South American World Cup qualifiers, while the Manchester shot-stopper is one of a plethora of United players that is expected to feature for their respective countries when Spain take on Italy and Albania.

Jürgen Klopp will be hoping that his prized asset returns from his arduous journey in one piece, while José Mourinho will be expecting De Gea to show the sort of class that has enabled him to be named Manchester United Player of the Year in each of the last three seasons.

There’s a growing belief on Merseyside that Liverpool will be able to end that 27 year wait for a league title next May, while Mourinho knows that United, despite not firing on all cylinders, are still very much in the race with just 5 points splitting the top 7 sides.

Will Coutinho produce more magic when the sides meet at Anfield or will De Gea put on another goalkeeping masterclass ?

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