Virgil van Dijk may have to wait for his Liverpool debut after Jurgen Klopp hinted the club’s record signing could be left out for Friday’s FA Cup tie with Everton.
Van Dijk was not eligible to play against Burnley on New Year’s Day after formally completing his protracted move from Southampton for a fee reported to be £75million on that day – a world-record for a defender.
The Reds will be without star attackers Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho for the Merseyside derby, but Klopp reiterated that Van Dijk may need to be patient.
“Mo and Phil are not available, with Virgil it’s different, we have to see,” Klopp told reporters on Thursday. “He’s healthy but I have to make a decision for this game, we’ll see what we do with him.
“Centre-half is a position that needs to be tuned to the rest of the team. I imagine everyone is desperate to see him on the pitch but there is no rush. It’s more important for him to play good games for us than a lot of games.
“We have to wait a little bit for updates on each player then we make the line-up. The line-up will show all the respect we have for the FA Cup. A few people said I don’t show enough respect for cups but that isn’t the truth. Maybe we make it more obvious.
“Yeah [it will be Liverpool’s strongest side]. It’s nothing to do with the [Manchester] City game [on January 14] to be honest. We always try to do that, by the way, or try to do it. Afterwards we can get judged but that is our life. It will be the strongest line-up, for sure.
“Loris [Karius] will start. I think Wardy [Danny Ward] will be sub, so Simon [Mignolet] has a little break.”
Behind the scenes with our new No.4…
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 4, 2018
With Salah and Coutinho ruled out – although Klopp stressed neither player has “big injuries” – 20-year-old forward Dominic Solanke could be given another chance to impress in Liverpool’s forward line.
“Each game for Dom is very important,” Klopp added. “He was busy against Burnley, I think he ran 12.5km which is very rare for a striker.
“Very lively and he will score in the future, no doubt. He gets experience. A player like Dom, for him it is perfect to play as much as possible. That’s really important.”
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) January 1, 2018
Everton claimed a point in December’s Merseyside derby at Anfield, Wayne Rooney’s penalty earning a 1-1 draw despite a highly defensive display from Sam Allardyce’s side, but Klopp believes Everton will show more attacking ambition in Friday’s cup tie.
“Sam is not long enough at Everton that I can judge [his tactics] well,” Klopp added. “But they have had more offensive actions [in other games] than against us.
“Was it because of our strength? I don’t know. But yes, they will look for a chance and go to score a goal. Otherwise we might have to play again. It’s not important what Everton do because we have to concentrate on our own game. Even if they want to play, we will have more possession. If they had more possession, it would be a surprise.
“They have a big counter-attack threat, [Yannick] Bolasie is back and that is a big boost for them. They have a good squad, had a good run in the league before their last two games but that is not important. A cup competition is isolated from the season, there is more opportunity than pressure. There are no real favourites in a cup competition but playing at Anfield is a big boost for us.”
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