Virgil van Dijk is one of several defensive injuries Liverpool have ahead of their UEFA Champions League meeting with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, but goalkeeper Alisson says the Reds have the options to cope.
Jurgen Klopp will be missing star centre-back Van Dijk and perhaps Dejan Lovren, as well as long-term absentee Joe Gomez. But Alisson said in a Premier League interview (h/t FourFourTwo) that Liverpool’s depth means they can weather Bayern’s storm:
“All the defenders have played so when one comes in and one leaves, we don’t feel that loss because we’re all used to each other.
“That the backline are all able to communicate with each other, and know each other really well, is vital for any team. Once you’ve cracked it, you’ve got it – and we seem confident.”
Van Dijk, 27, has been a vital linchpin as Liverpool’s defensive record has improved substantially this season—their record of 15 goals conceded in 26 games is the best in the Premier League.
The Netherlands defender has been ever-present throughout their season and will be eligible to return for the last-16 second leg against Bayern at the Allianz Arena on March 13. Former Reds star Sami Hyypia recently paid Van Dijk high praise:
“He is so calm on the ball, he never seems in a hurry and he trusts his skills on the ball.”
💬 Hyypiä on VVD…
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 16, 2019
The Merseysiders have kept only one clean sheet in their last four games, with Van Dijk missing less than 40 minutes of their league campaign, which sees them level on points with leaders Manchester City (with a game in hand).
Alisson added he and his team-mates were aware of the challenge they face: “We know they’re a really good, strong team. Jurgen knows more about that team than anyone. There’s a lot of quality—and a great defence.”
Die Roten have made it to at least the semi-finals in six of the past seven Champions League campaigns, never failing to reach the last eight in that time.
Malik Ouzia of the Evening Standard wrote that Lovren wasn’t involved in preparations for the Bayern game as of Sunday because of his hamstring injury. It seems likely Fabinho could fill in alongside Joel Matip in central defence, and there’s no doubting the drop in calibre from their first-choice pairing, per Anfield HQ:
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have only conceded six goals in 1,373 minutes of playing together which spread across the season would equate to just less than 15 goals and that is better than any other defensive record from any team or player in the Premier League this year. 💪🔴 pic.twitter.com/xBSDlt8tpd
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) February 16, 2019
Van Dijk is well en route to proving every bit worth the £75 million Liverpool paid for him and will justify that expense entirely if the Reds end their 29-year wait for a top-flight title in his first full season at Anfield.
Former Premier League forward Chris Sutton was highly complimentary of Van Dijk and his impact at Liverpool during a recent appearance on BT Sport Score:
— BT Sport Score (@btsportscore) February 16, 2019
Bayern have pulled back within two points of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund after showing improved form since Christmas, but overcoming Liverpool at Anfield will be a task, whether Van Dijk is playing or not.
For what they’re worth, Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup—to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea, respectively—the only matches in which Van Dijk hasn’t featured this season.