Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said he’s expecting a game with plenty of attacking play, and star defender Virgil van Dijk was speaking from the same playbook when he sat down to talk to the press ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter final second leg.
The Reds may have a 3-0 advantage heading to The Etihad on Tuesday, but Van Dijk insisted they won’t be setting out to try to defend their way into the next round of Europe’s premier cup competition. Instead, they’ll be looking to attack—and win the game outright.
“It’s pretty clear that defending a 3-0 lead here is going to be a bit of a strange situation, but I think we need to come out with the mindset that it’s still scoreless,” Van Dijk noted. “We want to win the game, and we also know that we’re capable of scoring goals.
“We know that as a team we can defend pretty well and very compact, too. You could see in the second half last week we played against them. But the main thing is that we definitely need to keep a mindset of trying to win the game instead of defending the lead.”
Given both sides are best known for their attacking prowess—even if Liverpool have been much improved at the back so far in 2018 since Van Dijk arrived from Southampton and Loris Karius took over the starting goalkeeper job—it’s a reasonable approach to take.
If Liverpool try to sit deep and soak up pressure for 90 minutes, this is a City side well capable of scoring the three goals it would take to send the tie to extra time and maybe even tallying the four it would take to put themselves through to the semi finals.
If Liverpool try to attack in turn, though, it’s hard to see them being held off the scoresheet on Tuesday by a City side that will have to commit to attack and haven’t looked especially sound at the back when facing off against capable attacking sides so far this season.
And if Liverpool get on the scoresheet once, City then need five in regulation. If Liverpool score twice, City need six. Setting out to win the game, then—or at the least to attack and score a goal or two themselves—is very much the approach Liverpool have to take.
“Apart from the 3-0 lead, we played well against them,” Van Dijk added. “In the first half we had three amazing goals and then in the second half when we defended as a unit it was fantastic, so we’re pretty confident but we know it’s going to be a different game.
“They need to come [and attack] and we need to be ready and prepared for everything. We want to win the game.”