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Aston Villa hopeful Philippe Coutinho can make debut against Manchester United

Steven Gerrard hopes to hand Philippe Coutinho his Villa debut against Manchester United on Saturday.

The Brazil international is due to be assessed by the club’s medical staff on Wednesday morning after completing a loan switch from Barcelona.

Gerrard will then determine whether the 29-year-old, who has started only five matches in Spain this season and endured a recent bout of Covid-19, is ready to feature against the Red Devils.

Coutinho, a former Liverpool team-mate of the Villa boss, ranks as the most high-profile signing in the club’s history and Gerrard insists bolstering his attack was a priority this month due to injuries, international call-ups and uncertainty over the future of 18-year-old starlet Carney Chukwuemeka.

The latter, who has made four substitute appearances in the Premier League under Gerrard, is yet to agree terms on a new long-term deal.

Gerrard explained: “There is a lot going on in that (attacking) area and we felt it was right we needed another body but not just one who is going to add to the numbers, one who is going to make a difference and add real quality.

“We have an injury with Leon Bailey and we knew we were going to lose two (Trezeguet and Bertrand Traore) to the Africa Cup of Nations.

“We knew we were going to short in that area. Yes, we have some very talented academy players but they are still developing and it is not fair to throw them in at the deep end at this level of competition.

“I am still waiting to learn what Carney is going to do in terms of his future too.”

Chukwuemeka joined Villa’s academy from Northampton Town aged 12 and was part of the club’s FA Youth Cup-winning team last season. He signed his first three-year professional contract in October 2020 but Villa’s efforts to tie him down for the longer term have so far been without success.

Gerrard will run the rule over another of Villa’s Youth Cup winners, Kaine Kesler-Hayden, over the next fortnight before deciding whether to send the 19-year-old back out on loan.

Kesler-Hayden spent the first half of the season with League Two Swindon but was recalled to Villa last weekend after impressing Gerrard in the Robins’ FA Cup tie against Manchester City. He could now become part of the first-team squad if he impresses in training.

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