Steven Gerrard: Philippe Coutinho's World Cup ambition can spark Aston Villa season

Steven Gerrard believes Philippe Coutinho’s burning World Cup ambitions can help him hit top form for Villa.

Philippe Coutinho has experienced a frustrating start to the season.
Philippe Coutinho has experienced a frustrating start to the season.

Gerrard claims the playmaker has raised his levels since being omitted from the most recent Brazil squad and he was provided a further incentive on Friday, when national team coaches visited Bodymoor Heath to assess both himself and team-mate Douglas Luiz.

Coutinho, who is expected to start when Villa resume their Premier League season at Leeds on Sunday, has struggled during the opening two months of the campaign and Gerrard said: “He’s very honest and self-critical. He knows he hasn’t been at his best level.

“He also knows if he has any ambitions of going to the World Cup, his form has to be consistent until then. He has to be close to the best level of Philippe Coutinho.

“Since he was omitted from the Brazil squad, we have seen a different level of performance.”

Coutinho, who joined Villa permanently in a £17.2million deal from Barcelona in May, has been capped 68 times, including five appearances at Russia 2018. Gerrard added: “I think Phil is very much in their thinking. It was a combination why he was left out, it’s about your form – it’s always about your form – but the coaches know Phil inside out.

“They know what he can do. They know he has a high level of experience – he has tournament experience – maybe it was an opportunity for them to try different things.

“What I do know is that since he was omitted from the squad we’ve seen a different Phil Coutinho.”

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