In Brief

Virgil van Dijk injury: Liverpool’s Premier League title defence suffers huge blow

Dutch defender requires knee surgery and faces many months on the sidelines

Virgil van Dijk has vowed he is “ready for the challenge ahead” after Liverpool confirmed that their star defender will undergo knee surgery following his injury at Everton on Saturday. 

Dutch centre-half Van Dijk damaged an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the early stages of the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park and after the match Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said the initial prognosis of the injury was “not good”. 

Liverpool have not said how long the 29-year-old will be out for, but returning to action after ACL surgery can take “many months”, the BBC reports. 

The reigning Premier League champions said: “Further assessment on the injury has revealed an operation will be needed. No specific timescale is being placed upon his return to action at this stage. Following surgery, Van Dijk will begin a rehabilitation programme with the club’s medical team to enable him to reach full fitness as soon as possible.”

‘I’ll be back’

Van Dijk, who has played every league game for the Anfield club in the past two seasons, says he will return “better, fitter and stronger than ever before”. 

In a post on social media, he wrote: “This afternoon I met with a leading consultant to start the process of planning the finer details of my rehabilitation following the incident yesterday. I’m now fully focused on my recovery and will do everything I can to be back as quickly as possible. 

“Despite the obvious disappointment, I’m a firm believer that within difficulty lies opportunity and with God’s help I’m going to make sure I return better, fitter and stronger than ever before. In football, as in life, I believe everything happens for a reason and it’s important to try and keep level-headed whether going through the highs or the lows. 

“With the support of my wife, kids, family and everyone at Liverpool, I’m ready for the challenge ahead. I’d like to thank everyone for the messages of support, it’s meant a huge amount to me and my family, and I’ll now be doing everything possible to support my teammates in any way I can ahead of a big few weeks ahead as I take my own recovery day by day. I’ll be back.”

‘Title race is wide open’

The former Celtic and Southampton player has been a key part of Liverpool’s success. He played a starring role in the Champions League triumph in 2019 and was ever present during Liverpool’s march to the Premier League title last season. 

The injury, which was caused after a rash challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, has “blown the title race wide open”, says former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher. 

Joel Matip and Joe Gomez will deputise for Van Dijk but a “lack of depth at centre-back will be a major concern for boss Jurgen Klopp”, Sky Sports reports. 

Carragher, who is a pundit for Sky, said: “The big question you’re looking at now is, can Liverpool win the league without Van Dijk there? I think every team has three or four players in every title-winning team or a team who think they can win the title, and if one of those players is missing, no matter how good your manager is, no matter how big your squad is, you can’t cover for them because they’re outstanding. I think it blows the title race wide open, I really do.”

Fellow Sky pundit Graeme Souness added: “If you were to ask me at the start of the season, who’s the one player you don't want to miss a large chunk of the season… people might say Sadio Mane, people might say Mohamed Salah… for me it’s Van Dijk. It’s a major blow. It’s the last thing Liverpool needed.”

The 2-2 draw in the Merseyside derby leaves Liverpool third in the Premier League table, three points behind their rivals Everton, who are top with 13 points from five games.  

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