Liverpool's title challenge will not be judged on Manchester City matches, says Virgil van Dijk

Van Dijk believes meetings with mid-table and lower teams will be for Liverpool important this season

Mark Critchley
Northern Football Correspondent
Monday 08 October 2018 13:45
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Jurgen Klopp questions use of VAR after Chelsea loss

Virgil van Dijk believes Liverpool's title challenge will not depend on games against the likes of Manchester City, having held the defending champions to a goalless draw at Anfield on Sunday.

Van Dijk was the most relieved man on Merseyside at the sound of the final whistle, having conceded a penalty for a trip on Leroy Sané just minutes earlier. Riyad Mahrez spared the Dutchman’s blushes, though, by blazing his 86th-minute spot-kick over the crossbar.

A match billed as ‘challengers against champions’ was otherwise a low-key affair, with little to separate two sides who were keen not to cede ground to each other. The draw means City and Liverpool remain level on 20 points at the top of the table, alongside Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea.

Van Dijk did not deny that Liverpool had intended to beat City and claim a statement win on Sunday, but he believes the point is a useful one and said that victories over the Premier League’s lesser lights will prove more important.

“I think it is not about these games, it is all about the other games, the difficult games which we have against mid-table and lower teams,” he said. “We want to get as close as possible and do as well as we can but we know it is going to be hard. We’ve had a great start to the season and we want to keep it going.”

Van Dijk admitted he made a mistake by sliding in on Sané inside his own penalty area so late into the game and he put this piece of poor decision-making down to tiredness.

Van Dijk fouled Sané in the closing stages

“I think to keep a clean sheet after a penalty in the last five minutes makes me a very happy man,” he said. “It was not smart from me personally and hopefully it will never happen again

“Eighty-five minutes, you obviously get a bit fatigued, and that moment goes by in a split second and I decided to dive in, which is not what I would normally do. It was a decision I made and hopefully it will be the last time I make that decision at that time.”

Van Dijk added: “You want to win and that is what we tried. At the end, we need to be happy – I need to be happy – that we didn’t lose it because of the penalty. They came as they champions and it was lucky they didn’t score but also unlucky we didn’t score either.”

Liverpool enter the October international break having navigated a gruelling run of fixtures, which saw victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton and a draw at Chelsea before Sunday’s stalemate with City.

Jurgen Klopp’s side now have a more favourable schedule awaiting them and Van Dijk’s focus is on the fixtures ahead.

“We aim to improve every game, even if it is against Chelsea, for example, and we want to win every game,” he said. “After the international break there are three important games against Huddersfield, Red Star and Cardiff so we want to be ready for that.”

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