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Claude Puel: Virgil van Dijk talk is just speculation

Published 01/12/2016

Virgil van Dijk is consistently among Southampton's finest performers
Virgil van Dijk is consistently among Southampton's finest performers

Claude Puel has dismissed as "speculation" reports that Virgil van Dijk could join Liverpool in January.

The central defender has in recent months enhanced his reputation with the finest form of his career and is reported to be a transfer target for Jurgen Klopp, whose team's biggest weakness so far this season has been in defence.

Van Dijk's performances have been so strong he has been one of just three players to consistently remain in Puel's team despite the manager's preference to frequently rotate, but asked of the Dutchman, he responded: "It's just speculation, and I cannot participate with speculation.

"All the players are in the club's project, and for this season it is important to continue this work with good spirit and this is true with all the players.

"It is just rumour and it's not important for me."

Puel also refused to discuss Southampton's reported interest in Celtic's Moussa Dembele, but he did reveal his sympathy for the pressure Crystal Palace's Alan Pardew is under because of the wider picture surrounding Premier League managers.

Southampton visit Palace in the Premier League on Saturday having impressed in defeating Everton 1-0 on Sunday and Arsenal 2-0 in the EFL Cup on Wednesday evening.

They are without the injured Matt Targett and Dusan Tadic, who when returning to training will have to wear a face mask to protect his nose, but Palace have lost their past six fixtures and former Southampton manager Pardew could lose his job if a seventh follows on Saturday.

"It's very difficult for all the managers, like for me also," said the Frenchman, whose assistant Eric Black was earlier cleared by the club of any wrongdoing amid allegations of corruption triggered by the Daily Telegraph's investigation into football.

"Every time it is strong games with possibilities to play against strong, different players and quality players.

"It's always difficult. It's the same for all the managers and all the clubs.

"It's important for me, for my players, to stay with a good concentration about this game because (Palace is) a good team with good players and they play at home."

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