London, April 28 (IANS) Considered one of the best defenders in the world, Virgil van Dijk underlined the quality of Liverpool’s forward options by admitting he would not enjoy facing his teammates as an opponent.
With the Reds’ second goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Villarreal, Sadio Mane became the third player to net 20 times for the club this season, emulating Mohamed Salah – who teed up the strike for his fellow attacker – and Diogo Jota.
That achievement followed on from Luis Diaz and Divock Origi combining to seal victory in the Merseyside derby last weekend, after another Salah assist, as the firepower at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal keeps his side in contention for a quadruple.
“They are so important for us at the moment. I don’t want to be facing any of our strikers, to be fair,” Van Dijk told Liverpoolfc.com after the Champions League semifinal first-leg success.
“Diogo from the bench, Luis, Mo, Sadio, it’s incredible, Divock the last game. We are in a good moment, everyone is pushing each other and we’ll try to keep that going, and the amount of work they put in is incredible as well.”
Liverpool were patient and precise throughout the opening leg of their last-four clash with Spanish outfit Villarreal as they target a third trip to the European Cup final in five seasons.
After a goalless first half dictated by the home side, two goals in as many minutes unlocked the visitors, with Jordan Henderson’s cross forcing an own goal by Pervis Estupinan and Mane swiftly tucking in a finish.
They will meet again next Tuesday at Estadio de la Ceramica, where, insisted Van Dijk, the Reds will go on the front foot in their pursuit of a place in the May 28 showpiece.
“We are not going there to defend and defend the lead,” said the Netherlands international.
“We know we have to be very mature there as well, we know it’s going to be tough, probably a little hostile atmosphere, but it’s something we should enjoy as well.
“You don’t get to the final the easy way, it’s never the case, especially at this stage of the Champions League. You play against fantastic teams. So, it will be tough there but we have to be confident, work hard for the full 95 minutes and hopefully we can get the job done.”
Van Dijk was partnered in central defence by Ibrahima Konate, who came in to the starting XI in place of Joel Matip against the Yellow Submarine.
It was Konate’s 23rd appearance since arriving from RB Leipzig last summer as he continues to enjoy an impressive debut season with Liverpool.
“A fantastic player. To be that good already at such an age, it’s crazy, in my opinion,” said Van Dijk.
“Obviously he still has loads to learn and, in my opinion, as a centre-back I think it comes with experience, dealing with situations, dealing with mistakes, dealing with moments that you fail [in] maybe to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.
“But he is already at such a high level and such consistency as well. So, it’s great to have each other and push each other each and every day. Joel obviously an incredible season as well, so let’s keep that going.”