‘It means nothing yet' - Van Dijk shrugs off Liverpool's huge Premier League lead as defender demand
The Reds are 16 points clear of Manchester City, but there will be no complacency in the camp in the quest for a first title in 30 years
It’s becoming something of a weekly dance.
Each week, a journalist will ask a Liverpool player to talk about their giant lead at the top of the Premier League, or the latest record set by Jurgen Klopp’s side.
And each week they get the same answer.
It was Virgil van Dijk’s turn this week, the Dutchman offering a straight bat to a question about Reds fans singing ‘we’re gonna win the league’ after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Manchester United at Anfield.
“How many guys have you been interviewing from us?!” grinned Van Dijk. “I think we all give the same answer.
“Everyone can have their opinion, have their say on the situation we are in now but we all know as a group, everyone that is involved in Melwood, we are not getting carried away.
“We can’t deny that we are in a good situation, but these things don’t mean anything at the moment – only at the end of the season. And hopefully it does mean something at the end of the season.”
Van Dijk can’t say it, just as Klopp can’t, but the facts are undeniable; Liverpool are on their way to the title, and at some pace too.
Twenty-two games in, they sit a massive 16 points clear of second-placed Manchester City, also boasting a game in hand on their challengers. Thirty points from their final 16 games will guarantee their first championship since 1990.
Thirty points, incidentally, is the gap between Liverpool and Manchester United after Sunday’s ‘contest’ on Merseyside. Van Dijk headed the Reds into a first-half lead at Anfield and, despite some late nerves brought about by a series of missed chances from the home side, Mo Salah clinched the points with a counterattacking second in stoppage time, sparking wild celebrations on the Kop.
That’s 13 league wins in a row for the league leaders, and seven clean sheets on the spin as well – the first time they have achieved such a feat since 2006.
“Everyone is involved in that,” said Van Dijk. “We have a fantastic goalkeeper, the full-backs doing their job, our midfielders and the stars obviously up front, so it is a whole collective thing.
“But obviously as a defender we are very pleased to keep clean sheets, because we all know that if we keep a clean sheet there is a big chance to win the game, so it is a good feeling.”
Klopp was similarly pleased, remarking after the game on the “incredible energy” put in by his side. Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, in particular, stood out a mile in that regard.
“Yeah but we all know why we are doing it,” said Van Dijk. “We all know why we work so hard for each other. That’s the good thing; we are always trying to find a way.
“It will never be easy but we know that, so you can adapt already to deal with certain situations. The mentality we have, we know there are going to be setbacks in games, we know there will be difficult moments in games, but if you are ready to face them it makes it a little bit easier.”
Liverpool’s next challenges will come away from Anfield. They head to Wolves on Thursday night, then take on League One side Shrewsbury in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday. After that it is off to London for their game in hand, away at West Ham.
Wolves should provide a test. Nuno Espirito Santo’s men felt hard done by when losing 1-0 at Anfield at the end of December and arrive in good form, sixth in the table and just five points short of the Champions League places.
“They give everyone a big test,” agreed Van Dijk. “Massive respect for them, how they play and how they are doing it at the moment. Good team, fantastic manager.
“It is always going to be tough. They showed it against everyone already in the league. We have to be ready again for a very tough game.”
The good news for Liverpool is that “being ready” is part of this side’s make-up. Their relentless quest for a title goes on.
Nothing’s going to stop them now, surely?
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