The 2020-21 season hadn't begun well for Liverpool. The reigning Premier League champions were at the receiving end of shocking 7-2 defeat by Aston Villa on 4 October, and they're already without their first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker. The season has now taken a turn for the worse with defender Virgil van Dijk's knee injury.
Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's rash and terrible tackle on van Dijk during the Merseyside derby on Saturday left the defender unable to continue. Scans have revealed that van Dijk has damaged an anterior cruciate ligament and requires surgery on his right knee.
Liverpool have not announced a timescale on Van Dijk's absence, nor have the club ruled out the defender returning later in the season, but an injury like this typically requires a long time to heal. Chances are that the Netherlands international may miss the entire season.
“Following surgery,” Liverpool announced, “Van Dijk will begin a rehabilitation program with the club's medical team to enable him to reach full fitness as soon as possible.”
Van Dijk has been ever-present in the heart of Liverpool's defence since joining the club in January 2018. In that time, Liverpool's defence went from dodgy to impregnable, as the club won four major trophies, including the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League this year. Van Dijk's displays have seen him win the PFA Player's Player of the Year award for 2018-19 and the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award for 2018-19. In both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, Liverpool had the beset defensive record in the league, and van Dijk has been central to this. Prior to the injury, he had played every minute of Liverpool's previous 74 Premier League games.
Pickford's reckless, knee-high lunge left the defender in visible pain on the pitch. He immediately came off after a lengthy treatment and hobbled to the locker room. The video assistant referee's (VAR) decision to not send off Pickford for the tackle has generated much controversy. Liverpool have sought a review of the decision. After the match, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said, "Virg played I don’t know how many games in a row. He plays with pain but he couldn’t play on and that’s not good.”
Van Dijk said in a tweet earlier today, "I'm now fully focused on my recovery and will do everything I can to be back as quickly as possible."
October 18, 2020
Liverpool's options at centre back are now reduced with just Joël Matip and Joe Gomez available. Matip has only recently returned from injury, and Gomez has been struggling for form. Liverpool sold defender Dejan Lovren in the summer, and the club may have to use midfielder Fabinho as a make-shift centre back.
Given the compressed nature of the season, games will be coming thick and fast. First off is a tricky Champions League group-stage game against Ajax on 21 October. Van Dijk's lengthy layoff now puts a question mark against Liverpool's Premier League title defence as well as the club's aim to win the Champions League again this season.
With inputs from PTI.