Liverpool: Virgil van Dijk returns to Goodison Park for the first time since THAT ACL injury

Spread the love

nike promo web

new balance
free keto book

It was a day which left the red half of Merseyside fuming: the loss of an irreplaceable defensive talisman and the trigger for the derailment of Liverpool’s Premier League title defence. 

Minutes into last season’s derby between Everton and Liverpool, Jordan Pickford mistimed a challenge at the back post and clattered into Virgil van Dijk’s right knee, leaving the usual unflappable Dutchman in severe pain. 

It was a season-ending blow, not just to Van Dijk but the team he marshals so exquisitely. Tonight, the centre back returns to Goodison Park fully fit and firing again, as he looks to spearhead another Reds title charge this season. 

Jordan Pickford clattered into Virgil van Dijk last October, resulting in a season-ending injury

The Liverpool centre back underwent surgery in the days that followed on a cruel ACL blow

The Liverpool centre back underwent surgery in the days that followed on a cruel ACL blow 

It marks the end of a 13-month journey which began with the dramatic end of Van Dijk’s meteoric progress – he reached the point where he was seven votes shy of winning the 2019 Ballon d’Or – due to a moment of thoughtlessness which went unpunished. 

Pickford was never penalised for the blow. VAR, bizarrely, opted not to give a penalty or a red card for the Everton keeper’s back-post tackle following an early set-piece. 

Not one to go down easily, an anguished look from Van Dijk told the story straight away. He left the pitch of his own accord but the early indications were not good. 

He knew. And so did Jurgen Klopp when he encountered him on the touchline.  

In the weeks that followed, the Holland captain underwent successful surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament damage in his right knee. And so began a long recovery process which would see Van Dijk, in all probability, miss the rest of the 2020-21 campaign. 

Jurgen Klopp could tell from the cold look on Van Dijk's face that the injury was serious

Jurgen Klopp could tell from the cold look on Van Dijk’s face that the injury was serious 

See also  Angry St Etienne fans chase players in tunnel and invade pitch with flares

With Thiago also suffering an injury later on in the game – Richarlison was punished and sent off for this tackle – Klopp described Everton’s tackling as ‘completely unacceptable’ and accused the Toffees of ‘taking it way too far.’ 

‘A few days ago something that should not have happened in a football game, happened,’ an angry Klopp insisted in the aftermath. 

‘It was not the first time and it won’t be the last, but both challenges were difficult to accept. As a human, I don’t want to see Everton players punished, but we all agree if you do something wrong, you have to deal with consequences.’

Despite an appeal, Pickford and Everton escaped punishment. 

As for Van Dijk, despite the mammoth setback, he quickly got down to work in a long and arduous rehab. He was back at the club’s Kirkby training ground by December, and posted on his Instagram riding a bike in the gym before 2020 was out. 

The Dutchman was back on a bike in the gym by December as he started his long rehabilitation

The Dutchman was back on a bike in the gym by December as he started his long rehabilitation

His ambitious target here was to be fit for Holland’s Euro 2020 campaign, their first major tournament since finishing third at the 2014 World Cup. 

Van Dijk was back running on the training pitches in March and the first shots of him kicking a football again came a month later. 

By this point, Liverpool’s title defence had capitulated amid crumbling squad depth and a complete lack of fit first-team defenders. 

An unprecedented six home losses in a row at the start of 2021 consigned Klopp’s team to fighting for a top-four finish. To their credit, after a late-season resurgence, they finished third above soon-to-be European champions Chelsea.  

But by mid-May, the Dutch captain had made his mind up. A mature, sensible decision was made – the Euros would come too soon. 

The first shots of him kicking a football again came in April - but it was too soon for the Euros

See also  Will Lionel Messi play in World Cup Qualifier?

The first shots of him kicking a football again came in April – but it was too soon for the Euros

‘In this latest stage for myself, I have come to a decision that I had to make: would I be involved in the Euros, yes or no?’ he said. 

‘With everything that is going on, I feel physically it is the right decision that I’ve decided not to go to the Euros and to go into my last phase of rehab during the off-season.

‘So, the full focus will be on pre-season with the club and that’s a realistic goal, so I am looking forward to that.’

It gave Van Dijk another two months of pre-season training to get his knee and fitness back into shape. He returned in late July and three weeks later, on the opening day of the Premier League season against Norwich, he started, played 90 minutes and kept a clean sheet. 

Van Dijk made his return from injury in a pre-season friendly against Hertha Berlin in July

Van Dijk made his return from injury in a pre-season friendly against Hertha Berlin in July 

The Dutchman's return was a huge boost to Jurgen Klopp's title hopes for this campaign

The Dutchman’s return was a huge boost to Jurgen Klopp’s title hopes for this campaign 

Virgil was back. A new contract until 2025 was a lucrative sweetener. 

In the months that have followed, it is like he has never been away. He has not missed a single minute of league football since, has kept eight clean sheets out of 13 league games and has been back to his authoritative, dominant best. 

Delving deeper into the statistics, Van Dijk’s pass completion reads an impressive 90.7 per cent – especially when you take into account his raking diagonal passes – whilst he has won over 65 per cent of his duels at the back. 

Now, as we head into the busy festive period, Van Dijk is riding a wave. He scored for the first time this season in the 4-0 win against Southampton on Saturday, a result which saw them narrow the gap to Chelsea at the top to two points after the Blues dropped two on Sunday. 

Van Dijk scored his first goal of the season in the 4-0 win against Southampton on Saturday

See also  AIFF disqualifies Hyderya FC from I-League

Van Dijk scored his first goal of the season in the 4-0 win against Southampton on Saturday 

But Wednesday will feel different for the 30-year-old, as he makes the trip across Stanley Park. It will be his first run-in with Pickford post-injury, while the team as a whole want to regain the Merseyside bragging rights after losing at Anfield to their neighbours in February.  

Will there be any sense of trepidation from the Dutchman on Wednesday night? 

You’d have thought not. He is too much of a professional to be sidetracked by a melodrama away from the business at hand. 

Van Dijk is looking to guide Liverpool to another Premier League title after their 2020 success

Van Dijk is looking to guide Liverpool to another Premier League title after their 2020 success 

Last October, when asked if he expected Van Dijk to make a strong recovery, Klopp said: ‘100 per cent. Clear to say, he is a quick healer and a pain coper. All these things, yes they help.’

The Liverpool boss could not have been more right. Van Dijk has been one of Liverpool’s best performers again. Revenge won’t be at the forefront of his mind this evening. 

It will just be about another three points. Another step towards another league crown. 

nike promo web

anti radiation
new balance


Source link


Spread the love
crypto quantum