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John Giles: 'Philippe Coutinho was a popular lad at Liverpool and players are not stupid...they will reach their own conclusions'

Philippe Coutinho was a popular player at Liverpool
Philippe Coutinho was a popular player at Liverpool

Back in November after Liverpool drew 1-1 with Everton at Goodison, I set Jurgen Klopp a task in my mind.

With a slew of fixtures against mid-table and lower opposition in front of him, I wanted to see Klopp's team go on a winning run which would lift them into a position as credible opposition for Manchester City.

He watched his team draw 0-0 in the next game against West Brom but they won four from the next five and drew 3-3 with Arsenal. Not quite what I was looking for but decent form and enough to push Liverpool into the top four.

At the same time, Pep Guardiola's team continued to beat everything put in front of them and apart from that single 0-0 glitch against Crystal Palace last week, City haven't put a foot wrong.

All of that should set us up nicely for what could be a really good game of football which I've been looking forward to for a while but all week, the only topic on the table has been Liverpool's decision to sell Philippe Coutinho, arguably the club's top player.

As preparation for a big game, selling a top player is hardly ideal and that would have been reflected on the training ground.

Coutinho was a popular lad, by all accounts and players are not stupid. They will reach their own conclusions about his departure for Barcelona.

I can guarantee you that Pep Guardiola, if he was in a similar situation at Manchester City, would not have been forced to sell a player like Coutinho as seems to be have been the case with the Liverpool boss.

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Klopp said back in August that there was nothing else he could do to persuade Coutinho to remain a Liverpool player but he could have added a third party to that sentence and included his employers who I believe were committed to selling since the summer

He had no control over that and that tells me that the Anfield transfer committee is still operating in some form at the club.

Oddly enough, I think he will have full control of the remaining cash they have after spending £75m on Virgil van Dijk but I would be surprised if Klopp does any major business before the end of January.

That's unless there's a deal which he has been working on since the summer. I believe he knew back in August that he would have to find an alternative for Coutinho.

In terms of the game tomorrow, I'll be very interested to see how Guardiola's team copes with man of the moment Mohamed Salah.

The reverse fixture went badly for Liverpool at the Etihad in September but they could have been two up in the first 20 minutes of that game and had Sadio Mane sent-off before City cut loose and beat them 5-0.

I think City have done a great deal to convince everyone that they can defend over the last few months but the doubts I had at the start of the season were fully exposed by Liverpool during the early blows of that game.

I'm not sure Liverpool's defending has improved in any way since then but they do have Van Dijk on board now which adds another sub-plot to a game already rich in possibilities.

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