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Van Dijk return and Salah, Firmino skills give Klopp reason to be cheerful

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp identified stand-out performances at both ends of the field as his side saw off Southampton 2-0.

NEWS
12 Feb 2018, 03:35 IST
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VirgilvanDijk - cropped
Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk

Jurgen Klopp praised Virgil van Dijk's character after the defender eased his way through a hostile return to Southampton.

Van Dijk completed a long-mooted move to Anfield from St Mary's last month, becoming the most expensive defender of all time in the process.

Klopp has gently eased him into the first team and checked whether the Netherlands international was ready to withstand the inevitable boos on his return to the south coast on Sunday.

The 26-year-old centre-back was seldom troubled as goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah enhanced Liverpool's prospects of a top-four finish against the relegation-threatened Saints.

"He did really well, he dealt with the situation fantastically," Klopp told a post-fight news conference when asked about Van Dijk's display.

"We had a little talk before the game and I asked, 'What do you think?'

"He said, 'No, I'm fine boss'. I don't want to make him nervous if he isn't nervous and obviously he wasn't and that's good.

"I understand everything in football. The crowd is there to make life difficult for the opponent but I think it was not too difficult for him from this point of view and I'm happy about it."

Salah and Firmino now have 22 and 12 goals in the Premier League respectively this season, with 49 combined in all competitions. They coolly laid on goals for each other at St Mary's.

"I really think [Sergio] Aguero and [Harry] Kane and a few others are really good players as well, 100 per cent," said Klopp when considering the duo's place among the finest forwards in the division.

"Our boys are important for us. What I love is – of course their skills and attitude – but the work-rate is outstanding.

"Both get to profit from our style of play, that's for sure as well. We play in the areas where they like to have the ball.

"In this strong league you cannot be third without fantastic players and yes, they are two of them."

Third could conceivably become second over the coming weeks, with Manchester United now only two points ahead of Klopp's men after their shock 1-0 loss at Newcastle United.

"We didn't know before the game that United would lose, but we know that we are not too far away," the former Borussia Dortmund boss added.

"But it's not a battle between them and us, we play against them one more time in this season at least. For us, 54 points, that's important.

"What the other teams have, we have no influence on, so we need to win. We now have the Champions League, then we have West Ham at home, [which] is difficult."

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