'Something special is happening' - Virgil Van Dijk staying immune to title fever

Taking his lead from Jurgen Klopp and club captain Jordan Henderson, Van Dijk refuses to countenance the question of ‘when?’ preferring to preface such talk with ‘if’ about the title lift

'Something special is happening' - Virgil Van Dijk staying immune to title fever

It cannot be easy being Virgil Van Dijk.

However effortless it appears for him to bestride football pitches like a modern-day colossus, marshalling the peerless defence of the best side in the world, he still faces a daily challenge.

Every day he has to wake up and try to avoid any reminders that Liverpool sit top of the Premier League, currently 19 points clear of their nearest rivals, and likely to wrap up their first title for 30 years by Easter — if not before.

It’s a topic he avoids whether amongst his team-mates and colleagues or when facing the media and a bank of microphones.

That he swerves such questions with the same style as he plays the game is to his credit, and he was on top form again at the London Stadium on Wednesday night on and off the pitch, initially brushing off West Ham during a routine 2-0 victory, and then feigning indifference to the elephant in the room afterward.

Taking his lead from Jurgen Klopp and club captain Jordan Henderson, Van Dijk refuses to countenance the question of ‘when?’ preferring to preface such talk with ‘if’ about the title lift, and whether it might come at Goodison Park or the Etihad Stadium.

Even though Wednesday night was Liverpool’s 23rd win in 24 league games this season, Van Dijk is taking nothing for granted.

He said of their midweek win: “It was important to get three points but it was difficult because they had blocked us with a back five and then the two holding midfielders in front. That meant it was difficult to break through but we kept patient.”

And that is how this relentless red machine are marching towards their first Premier League title — one game at a time.

“We just keep going and focus on what’s ahead of us,” he continued. “Wednesday it was West Ham, we got the job done and hopefully we will recover in time for the next one on Saturday.”

That game is against Southampton, the side Van Dijk left acrimoniously after a protracted transfer saga which ended up making him the world’s most expensive defender but not the most popular man on the south coast of England.

I’ve still got friends there, so it’s going to be a bit special, but it is all about the football and when the whistle goes, it’s all about myself and the team and trying to perform as well as possible.

"And that’s what I’ll try to do.”

He admits he left the Saints for Liverpool in order to win honours and has been vindicated by a Champions League winner’s medal and Player of the Year award from last season.

“Well obviously the decision I made has not been too bad,” he says. “I’m 28 now. I want to fulfil every dream that I have.

"But you know, life can be short and a career can be short as well. So I want to enjoy every bit of it. I’m enjoying playing with this team and playing for the club and the manager, and we can’t look too far ahead.

"So my focus is right now and that’s the best thing. I’m enjoying it.”

Does he feel part of something special, and does he share the confidence most Liverpool fans have that every time they kick-off they are likely to win?

“First of all you need to have confidence when you go out on the pitch because if you don’t have it, you will lose games. We have a good team, a good squad.

It’s just a very good squad and something special is happening. We’ll see at the end of the season just how special.

Liverpool can also match Arsenal’s achievement of going unbeaten throughout a league season, and beat their run of 49 consecutive games without defeat, but Van Dijk does not care to look at the record books.

“We have strong opponents that we’re going to play and I think our strength is that we don’t underestimate anyone. In football anything can happen and so far in the season we have had tough games where we have had to dig deep and grind out results. So there’s definitely a possibility of us getting beaten. But the main target is to be champions by the last day of the season.”

And could that come sooner rather than later? “Why would you talk about the title or anything else when nothing is decided? Until things are over then we’ll speak about it but until then we just focus on the game ahead of us.”

He claims that he does not even look at the league table. “End of the season. That’s the only thing that matters, so I’m not looking at the table.”

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