Without Virgil van Dijk traveling with the team to Amsterdam, it landed on Gini Wijnaldum to be the Dutch representative at the pre-Ajax press conference on Tuesday. As was inevitable, many of the questions focused on his compatriot, the best defender on the planet and recent Ballon d’Or runner-up, who would be missing most, if not all, of this season with the Reds.
“Virgil is a really important player in our team,” Gini said, when asked about how van Dijk’s absence would affect Liverpool’s prospects this season. “I think he showed that since he came in to the team and the club. He’s had really big performances; he’s a really important player for us not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch. He’s a leader in the team and since he came in we had really good results, so it’s quite normal that people will say it. It’s up to us to show we can put in good performances without Virgil. It’s a situation we didn’t have to deal with before, but that’s what we have to do right now.”
Virgil van Dijk, in addition to being a fantastic player, was also impressively reliable for the Reds. He has played in every league match since he joined the club, so learning to live life without him will be difficult, particularly while goalkeeper Alisson Becker is also out injured.
When asked about how the team deals with injury setbacks, Wijnaldum seemed to take a positive perspective.
“We dealt with that situation a few seasons ago [when Mohamed Salah missed the semi-final, second leg v Barcelona] quite well,” he pointed out. “That was for one game, but the situation with Virgil is that we’re going to miss him for a big part of the season.
“It’s quite different if you look at it that way, but if you look at the game for tomorrow it’s quite similar because that was for one game – and Virgil will miss the game against Ajax. At that time we were able to fix the situation and hopefully we can do it again tomorrow. It’s not ideal, the injury of Virgil, but it is just something we have to deal with. We will do everything to fix it.”
Joel Matip is another player who will miss out on Wednesday’s Champions League match, which means that Joe Gomez, Fabinho, and Adrian will each have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. All three have proven their talent on more than one occasion, so hopefully they will be up for the challenge.