Liverpool are still in the early stages of adjusting to life without Philippe Coutinho, who secured a dream move to Barcelona last weekend.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have a golden opportunity on Sunday afternoon to prove they’ll be perfectly fine without their Brazilian maestro, when they host league-leaders Manchester City at Anfield.
Coutinho, meanwhile, is currently in the process of working his way back to fitness after being ruled out for 20 days with a thigh injury after completing his £142 million move to the Camp Nou.
The 25-year-old is likely to make his Barça debut against local rivals Espanyol on February 4.
Many Liverpool fans, judging by the reaction on social media over the past week-and-a-half, feel bitter towards Coutinho for his decision to leave the Reds midway through the season.
While they respect his desire to join Barça, they wanted him to help their team progress as far as possible in the Champions League final and ensure the club secured a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Coutinho, however, wasn’t prepared to let this opportunity slip away. A footballer’s career is a short one and the chance to sign for a club like Barcelona doesn’t come along every day.
Peter Crouch makes an excellent point about Coutinho
Liverpool fans may feel that Coutinho has left them in the lurch but Peter Crouch has nailed it in his latest column for the Daily Mail.
The former Liverpool striker, who has plied his trade for Stoke City since 2011, is adamant that Coutinho deserves immense credit for knuckling down in the first half of the season despite the fact he was desperate to join Barça last summer.
“One transfer has dominated the last seven days, and the way Philippe Coutinho's move to Barcelona was handled by Liverpool and the player was first class,” Crouch said.
“These days you see players feigning injuries, throwing their toys out of the pram and saying: 'I'll never play for this club again.' It was clear Liverpool had some work to do because he would have been angry about not going in the summer.
“But once he got his head around that, you only had to watch him — he gave everything he could for Liverpool.”
Crouch isn't wrong about Coutinho
Although Coutinho made his feelings clear on occasions by deliberately failing to celebrate after scoring for Liverpool, there’s no doubt that he always gave 100 per cent whenever he pulled on the famous red shirt.
In 20 appearances for the Merseyside outfit before the New Year, Coutinho bagged 12 goals - an impressive return for a player who knew he’d be leaving Anfield in 2018.
Crouch: Players feel Coutinho deserves Barcelona move
“I know it would have been better for them had he gone in the summer but I think it shows a bit of class the way they let him go now,” Crouch added.
“In our dressing room, Glen Johnson and Joe Allen — who spent time with Coutinho at Anfield — were adamant he deserved the move. They raved about him, saying what a great lad he is but, above all, he is a top-class player.
“I’ve played against him a few times and he is one of those midfielders who can slow the game down to the pace they want to play at. Total calmness on the ball. He can score and create and I'm certain he will go to a different level at Barcelona.”
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