As Virgil van Dijk limped off the pitch at Goodison Park on Saturday, the worried expression on Jurgen Klopp’s face said it all. The same can be said for the millions of Liverpool fans across the world who were watching the game.
Just under 10 minutes into the Merseyside derby, the center-back was forced off with what has now been confirmed as an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury.
Having attempted to connect a floated ball into the Everton net, Virgil van Dijk was met by a clattering tackle from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. While it was a dangerous tackle, the Englishman faced no punishment after Virgil van Dijk was adjudged to have been offside.
The Dutchman has been a pillar at the back since joining Liverpool in January 2018, and his absence will be greatly felt at Anfield.
Virgil van Dijk's injury is major blow to Liverpool's title aspirations
Liverpool are yet to confirm the duration for which he will be absent, but ACL injuries typically take between five and eight months to fully heal. This means the defender’s season could be over.
And that, in turn, means that the Reds' title ambitions will take a major hit. Jurgen Klopp’s charges came into the season as the bookmakers’ favorites for the Premier League title.
However, Virgil van Dijk’s injury completely changes everything and blows the title race wide open. The former Southampton rearguard is not just a defender in the Liverpool setup — he is also key to their attack, which usually starts from the back.
Already, the Reds are reeling from the absence of goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who has also been ruled out for a couple of weeks due to injury.
Virgil van Dijk’s injury means Liverpool are now missing two of their key players. It is worthy to note that the aforementioned duo are the pieces of the jigsaw that propelled Liverpool to their recent success – both domestically and in Europe.
For all the talk about how important the attacking trident of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino is, the trio won nothing for Liverpool until Virgil van Dijk and Alisson arrived at Anfield.
And the Dutchman’s absence simply means the club could be returning to the days when they would score three goals and still end up drawing or losing. The 29-year-old is currently the best defender in the world, which makes him even more difficult to replace.
Throw in the fact that Joe Gomes and Joel Matip, Liverpool’s remaining natural center-backs, have never played together and it’s evident the kind of conundrum on Klopp’s hands.
The season still has a long way to go, but there are tough fixtures that will be coming up thick and fast. Liverpool, though, can no longer count on their most-trusted defender to bail them out.
The longer Virgil van Dijk stays out injured, the more Liverpool’s chances of retaining the Premier League title fade away. For he really is that important to this Liverpool side.Published 19 Oct 2020, 21:22 IST