Liverpool open up their Europa League campaign tomorrow as they take on Austrian side LASK. What started as a potentially nervy period after the international break with captain and all-world defender Virgil Van Dijk out serving a suspension for his reaction to being sent off against Newcastle. But Liverpool returned from the break with another stellar come from behind win against Wolverhampton Rovers to keep their undefeated record intact.
Now, Van Dijk is back to retain the captain’s band and, coupled with Ibrahima Konate’s return from injury last week, the first choice defense is nearly entirely back, with only Trent Alexander-Arnold left to account for. As such, the Dutchman was tabbed by Jurgen Klopp to take part in the pre-match press conference.
With typical candor, Van Dijk answered many of the questions pretty plainly, most interestingly offering a pretty blunt assessment regarding Liverpool’s previous season form landing them in the Europa League.
We all wanted before the season ended last year to be in the Champions League. That’s what we fought for but, unfortunately, we didn’t deserve it. What we deserved was the Europa League so we’re going to give it everything that we have - and we want to give it everything we have. We want to try to win it, but it doesn’t happen overnight so we have to work for it and that starts tomorrow.
Tough to argue with the skipper there, as Liverpool’s up and down season wasn’t quite worthy of gaining entry to Europe’s premier competition. (Given United’s result against Bayern, though, I can’t help but wonder what could have been if this seemingly more robust and sturdy - if slow to start - squad were given a go against the teams in the Champions League.)
Van Dijk also fielded a question on the suspension he’d just served for the aforementioned red card.
It has been very frustrating personally, but it also brought me a lot of other good things. I really enjoyed the team spirit, obviously the results [and] the way we’ve worked as a squad. Everything happens for a reason, that’s how I see it. I’m back now and I am definitely looking forward to it. I was quite lucky there were two international games in between, otherwise it would have been quite some time for me to play again.
Lucky for us, too, as Liverpool do rely heavily on his savvy and leadership on the pitch.