Van Dijk insists Liverpool need to prove they are ‘one of world’s biggest teams’ | Champions League

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Virgil van Dijk has said it is time for Liverpool to show they are “one of the biggest teams in the world” and improve their faltering away form, beginning at Ajax on Wednesday.

Liverpool can secure qualification for the Champions League knockout phase with a game to spare should they avoid defeat at the Johan Cruyff ArenA. That would be an impressive turnaround from Jürgen Klopp’s team in Europe having lost their Group A opener 4-1 in Napoli. But away results have continued to stall their overall momentum.

Defeat at Nottingham Forest on Saturday was Liverpool’s fourth loss in seven away matches in all competitions this season and Van Dijk has admitted there must be improvement before a sell-out crowd of 55,865 in Amsterdam.

“It is not something that we like [the away form],” he said. “It is something we want to improve as a group. We will try and show the intensity that we always want to show from tomorrow. We need that. Every game we play, whether it is away or at home, is always a difficult task and it is a different ask. From us as well.

“For example, the last away game at Forest we played against a very deep defending side and we tried to break them down and you have to be patient and do the right things. It makes every game different.

“We want to improve the situation, we want to improve the away results. It starts tomorrow. We want to show tomorrow that we are Liverpool, one of the biggest teams and clubs in the world.”

Ajax must win to retain hope of qualifying and the Netherlands’ captain believes it is vital Liverpool do not allow their opponents, who have lost their past three Champions League group games, to build any confidence on home soil.

“Ajax is a fantastic club, historically as well with the philosophy of how they want to play,” Van Dijk said. “They don’t have the best moment but I know how it can be here on a Champions League night when things go well for them. We have to be prepared for that and we have to match their intensity at least and then do even more.

“It will be interesting and something we should look forward [to]. We shouldn’t forget ourselves and who we are. We have to keep the confidence and try to be consistent.”

Jürgen Klopp speaks at a Champions League press conference
Jürgen Klopp said Liverpool have not had consistency in their line-up due to injuries which is why their performances have suffered. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty Images

There are concerns over the state of the pitch at the Johan Cruyff ArenA after it was damaged during the Amsterdam Dance Event on Saturday. Ajax groundstaff have been working on repairs this week.

Klopp claimed he has been preoccupied with other issues since Saturday to worry too much about Liverpool’s away form – namely injuries, with Thiago Alcântara still absent with the ear infection that forced his withdrawal against Forest.

“It is not something that is on my mind at the moment,” the Liverpool manager said of the discrepancy between his team’s results on the road and at Anfield.

“I am not sitting here thinking about the away problem and that I have to say something special about it for tomorrow. I prepare the team for a very important football game. Sorry, but I am not prepared for this question in this moment. I have had other things to do in the last few days.”

Klopp insisted there is a direct correlation between Liverpool’s inconsistent season and the injuries they have sustained throughout the campaign. “What you need to click is consistency in a lineup, and we cannot do that. Not at all,” the manager said.

“We have to sort problems. The situation doesn’t just get sorted overnight. Naby [Keita] and Ox [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] are not in the Champions League squad because everyone told me they would be out for longer. If they are back it is good but they are not back to play.

“I’m really looking forward to the game. It’s the Champions League, it’s Ajax – big names, big games. It’s all good.

“Our squad is not too small, it’s just that we have too many injuries. But we have enough players here and that is good news for the people who are with us.”

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