There is a growing confidence on Merseyside that this could be a special season fir Jurgen Klopp’s side this season. The league might be beyond them, but a domestic cup is well within their realm of possibility, especially with Philippe Coutinho in this kind of mood.
Seven months ago Coutinho was inconsolable at Wembley after becoming one of three Liverpool players to miss in the League Cup final penalty shoot-out against Manchester City.
Klopp would love to go one stage better in the same competition and certainly Coutinho played as if on a mission to deliver.
The 24-year-old Brazilian has been overshadowed in the early weeks of this season by new team-mates like Sadio Mane but on this occasion he grabbed star billing, scoring once and playing a major part in Liverpool’s other two goals.
When Derby tried to resort to some rough-house tactics, he turned the other cheek, unlike Klopp who demanded to the fourth official he should get better protection.
As it happened, Coutinho and Liverpool didn’t need it. He swung over the corner for Ragnar Klavan’s opener midway through the first half, and after the break scored a sumptuous second from compatriot Roberto Firmino’s pass and then set up Divock Origi for number three.
While Klopp insisted his team’s display was ‘not perfect’ but try telling Derby that sit 20th in the Championship, they were completely outclassed by a team now second favourites behind Manchester City for the league title after a string of away results.
There was plenty of good news for Klopp. £5million goalkeeper Loris Karius kept a clean sheet on debut and looked a sweeper-keeper out of the Manuel Neuer mould, Mark Grujic enjoyed his first start and Emre Can and Danny Ings came on as second half substitutes following injury problems.
There was even a late debut for 18-year-old Ovie Ejaria, but what pleased Klopp most was his players are clearly displaying an intent to try and win the trophy – the last one the club claimed under Kenny Dalglish in 2012.
‘This is a very important tournament for us, for the players, and we have to show it from the first second. Let’s go for it,’ said Klopp.
‘You need to be 100 per cent professional in games like this, which could be difficult, but we were ready for every opportunity.
‘We could’ve been better in the first half with the last pass and in the second with our counter attack but we will take 3-0 all day.’
On the challenges on Coutinho, he added:
‘When someone flies in three or four times like they did, I said to the fourth official “please tell him (the referee)”.
‘He didn’t hit Coutinho, I saw that, but it was so close.’