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Three ways Virgil van Dijk has improved Liverpool

He’s made an instant impact at Anfield

Liverpool will come under plenty of pressure when they take on Manchester City tonight.

After the Reds won the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final 3-0, the onus is on City to push for goals at the Etihad Stadium.

Just a few months ago, there would have been real question marks over whether Jurgen Klopp’s side were solid enough to hold out, even with a three-goal advantage.

But the Merseyside club are 1/7 to qualify for the semi-finals here. January signing Virgil van Dijk is key to that. His arrival has played a major role in tightening up the backline and eradicating their defensive errors.

The Coral News Team have looked at three ways he’s improved the side…

Added composure

Simon Mignolet will wish he could have played behind Van Dijk regularly. The Belgian lost his place in goal to Loris Karius earlier this season after one blunder too many. But Mignolet wasn’t helped by a backline that was rarely convincing.

Van Dijk’s commanding presence is reassuring to the players around him. The midfield can press knowing that the defence will be secure behind them. Karius won’t feel like he has to constantly anticipate errors from the players in front.

It all adds up to a more secure side and City didn’t have a single shot on target in the first leg.

Back to front

Liverpool’s speed, energy and skill going forwards can cause problems for any side. And with Van Dijk in defence, they can get the ball to the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane that much quicker.

The Netherlands international has a great range of passing, which allows Liverpool to launch attacks in an instant.

His comfort on the ball also gives them the option to take a more patient approach and build from the back.

Balanced partnerships

Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip have alternated in the defensive spot alongside Van Dijk since his arrival. They didn’t convince as a pair because they both like to attack the ball before the opposition can get on it and turn. The problem comes when they don’t win it and the goalkeeper is left unprotected.

In an ideal world, you’d have one defender stepping out to try to win the ball, with the other sweeping up behind them. Van Dijk plays that more conservative role supremely well, which allows Lovren or Matip to take a risk and confront attackers without leaving the defence too exposed.

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