On Saturday, local rivals Everton and Liverpool drew 2-2 at Goodison Park in a massive Merseyside derby. In a drama-filled encounter, the reigning champions saw a stoppage-time Jordan Henderson effort ruled out for offside by VAR.
Van Dijk injured in a clash with Pickford
However, the other biggest talking point came in the first ten minutes with Liverpool winning 1-0. Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford produced an ill-timed tackle on Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk in the Toffees penalty area. VAR ruled that the Dutchman was offside anyway, but the question of further action against the home goalkeeper remained.
However, none of the officials involved felt that the incident was worth a dismissal for the Everton goalkeeper. Many have even called for a retrospective punishment for England’s first-choice.
The fact that Van Dijk was missing for the rest of the game affected the result of the encounter. It has since been discovered that Van Dijk has anterior cruciate ligament damage that will keep him sidelined for a good while, so it could affect their whole season. Liverpool have not speculated about his return date, but these injuries can keep players sidelined for nine months.
That is a long time out of action for such a big player. However, Van Dijk comes across as a strong and fit individual, so he should be able to make a strong recovery.
Liverpool short of centre-backs
Virgil van Dijk is not just one of Liverpool’s best players, he is their leader from the back. He barks and moves his teammates into the right positions. The Dutchman has been a vital presence in the Reds recent successes at home and abroad.
The injury leaves Klopp’s team with just two recognised centre-back in Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. However, both players have doubts over them. Gomez is still a highly-rated young defender, but he seems to have lost his way this season. Maybe he is lacking confidence, as at times last season he looked very good.
Matip is a different case. The Cameroon international can be a very good centre-back, but he has problems avoiding injuries, which have plagued his career. If fit he is a good defensive option. Reports suggest he may have picked up a muscle problem in the derby, which is not believed to be serious.
The other option Klopp has is to move Brazilian central midfielder Fabinho back into a centre-back role. The former Monaco star has played in the position in the past, including in the 2-0 away win at Chelsea earlier this season. The game was the only one that the reigning champions have kept a clean sheet in the top-flight this season. Beyond that, the Reds would be depending on youngsters, such as Nathaniel Phillips, who at 23 years of age seems unlikely to make it with the Reds.
A blow to their title challenge
This season was always going to be a hard one for Liverpool. After last season’s title triumph, a first in 30 years, Klopp’s team were there to be shot down. Even with a first-choice defence and Alisson Becker in goal, the Merseysider’s have looked uncertain in defence. The way the season has started in such an unpredictable manner, anything could happen this season. Everton are top, while a struggler from last season, Aston Villa are second place just a point behind, having played a game fewer than the Toffees.
Liverpool have still got a good squad of players, but any team would miss a player of Van Dijk’s stature. Last season Manchester City missed Aymeric Laporte for a large chunk of the season and it affected them dearly. There is no getting away from the fact that the injury to their defensive mainstay is a major blow to their chances of retaining the title.[geosnippet id=3620]
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