Gerrard to wait on ‘unleashing’ Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho played alongside his manager Steven Gerrard at Liverpool between 2013 and 2015

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard says new signing Philippe Coutinho is “hungry to play” but he will not rush the Brazilian into action.

The 29-year-old could make his debut in Saturday’s Premier League match with Manchester United, though Gerrard says he is still short of match fitness.

“He is a fantastic talent, we are lucky to have him and, at the right time, he will be unleashed,” said Gerrard.

Gerrard added: “His name alone inspires people. What he has done in the game inspires people. I have no doubt at all we will see the real Philippe Coutinho in time.”

Coutinho joined the club on January 7 but only arrived in the UK this week and trained with his new team-mates for the first time on Wednesday.

His last competitive appearance was as a late substitute for Barcelona against Osasuna in La Liga on 12 December.

“He is hungry to play. If we can get him feeling good and the confidence back, Phil Coutinho is still inside Phil Coutinho,” said Gerrard, who played alongside him at Liverpool.

“He’s not match fit because over at Barcelona he has been doing a lot of individual training, training in small groups and he had a Covid situation.

“He has trained fully for the last couple of days and there’s still a fantastic player there for sure. It’s great to have him, he’s been smiling away and it’s my job to get him settled as soon as possible.”

Another player who could make his debut on Saturday is France defender Lucas Digne, who became Villa’s second signing of the window when he joined from Everton earlier this week.

Gerrard says the new arrivals highlight the club’s ambition and he has not ruled out more fresh faces moving to Villa Park before the end of the month.

“It shows the intent from the top all the way down. We are delighted to have Lucas, with his pedigree,” added the former England captain.

“In terms of more business, we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t want to say too much but I am delighted with the backing I have had so far.”

Find all the latest football transfers on our dedicated page.

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