Philippe Coutinho has insisted that he will pay no attention to the Premier League title race when Aston Villa play Manchester City.
The two sides clash at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in a game that could have massive ramifications for who gets top spot. Should City win, they will win the title regardless of what Liverpool do against Wolves.
But, if Liverpool win at Anfield and City fail to beat Villa, the Reds will be champions.
Former Liverpool midfielder Coutinho has subsequently featured in the pre-match narrative. He and Villa boss Steven Gerrard – who was a team-mate of the Brazilian at Liverpool – could yet help their former side win the league.
Gerrard took issue with such questions of “integrity” in his pre-match press conference. He instead insisted that he is looking to boost Villa’s coffers with as high a finish in the table as possible.
And Coutinho, who recently signed a long-term Villa contract following his January arrival on loan from Barcelona, is focusing on purely personal goals.
“It’s a great game to play,” the 29-year-old told the Daily Mail. “But we want to finish well against a great club, and that’s it. We always want to improve and do well and finish as high as we can.
“I only care about my new club, I want to play well for them. I have had a lot of messages from Liverpool fans on social media but I don’t look at it that much anyway.
“My focus is only on the games we have. City are one of the best teams in the world. It’s always difficult to play them.
“But we have played them before and done well and competed throughout the game. That is what we want to do this time and compete on the same level.”
City edged Villa out 2-1 at Villa Park in December in one of Gerrard’s first matches in charge.
However, City are in imperious league form and have scored four or more goals in three of their past four league games.
Coutinho or City narrative both special
Despite Gerrard slamming questions of him handing Liverpool the title, the Coutinho narrative stands out in the pre-match reading.
But what also stands out is the chance for City to win their fourth title in five years.
They have edged Liverpool out by a point before and will be looking to do so again this time round.
If Pep Guardiola’s side clinch top spot, it will be credit to their consistency over a period in which they have dominated top spot.
Liverpool just need to focus on getting three points against Wolves and hope City can slip up.