The Reds boss was not amused by the challenge which left his Dutch star sidelined, and wants his side to prove their doubters wrong without him
Jurgen Klopp admits Virgil van Dijk’s injury has hit Liverpool hard – but says he has no doubts about his players’ ability to deal with that setback.
The Reds boss was left angered by the fallout from Saturday’s Merseyside derby with Everton, and in particular the injury suffered by Van Dijk, who will be sidelined for months following the challenge from Jordan Pickford which left the Dutchman with a damaged anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Liverpool also saw Thiago Alcantara injured in a challenge with Richarlison, which saw the Everton forward red-carded. Thiago has not travelled to Amsterdam for his side’s Champions League clash with Ajax on Wednesday night.
In a spiky press conference ahead of that fixture Klopp – like midfielder Gini Wijnaldum – was in no mood to downplay his feelings on the whole episode.
He told reporters: “A couple of days ago, something happened which for sure should not have happened in a football game. It’s not the first time and it will probably not be the last time, but yes, I see it similar to my players. Both challenges were difficult to accept, let me say it like this.
“What we all can do is try to change these kind of things. It’s really hard for us. Virg is our boy, and it has nothing to do with the quality of Virgil. Yes he’s a world class player and we will miss him, but we miss Oxlade as well.
“Injuries happen in football, and very often in challenges, but very often both players try to play the ball, and that was not the case with these two challenges. That makes it different and makes it so difficult to take.
“The last four years, we were the leader of the Fair Play table. You don’t get anything for that, in fact most often people make a joke about it and say ‘Yes but you are not up there in the real table.’ We were pretty high in both tables, which means you can play football without these kind of challenges.”
Klopp was also critical of the Goodison match officials, referee Michael Oliver and VAR David Coote, who between them took no action against Pickford for his challenge on Van Dijk.
He said: “First the ref doesn’t see it. Michael Oliver is an excellent referee usually but why he didn’t see it, I don’t understand because he had the best view.
“Then the VAR forgets the rules. As a human being, it’s not that I want players punished, but if you do something wrong you have to deal with the consequences. At this moment, only one person deals with the consequences. Two, sorry. Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara. That’s difficult.
“I wouldn’t have spoken about it, but you asked me. You [the media] keep all these stories up. I am here to talk about a Champions League game, but you ask these questions and now everyone will judge us and say we don’t deal with it in the right way, but we did nothing wrong in the game, and we are still the ones who suffer.
“That doesn’t feel right and it’s not easy to deal. We all accept that injuries can happen, but it should be in a normal challenge.”
Klopp also bristled when it was suggested that his side would now pay the price for a lack of cover at centre-half, with Joel Matip missing the game with Ajax due to a muscle problem, leaving Joe Gomez as the only recognised senior centre-back in the squad.
Klopp said: “Yes we went into the season with three centre-halves plus Fabinho as cover, and young kids. That’s usually quite a good number.
“It’s difficult to have four world-class centre-halves. On one side it’s pretty expensive, on the other side one of them doesn’t play for a long, long time because it’s not a position you rotate much.
“If anybody wants to tell us now that we made a mistake in the transfer window – I think Jamie Carragher mentioned it already – then there are a few reasons why they don’t do this job! You cannot always have the solutions before you have the problem.
“It’s for sure not perfect. Joel Matip is not here as well, which is not perfect, but that is our situation and we have to deal with it. We will see how we react on it.
“We are still a little bit sensitive with the situation. The first question people ask is ‘what will you do in the transfer market?’
“We found out yesterday that our vice-captain and the best centre-half in the world is not playing for us for a long time. We will see how long and then work on solutions for specific moments. For the future, I have no idea how it will look.”
Klopp added: “I will not start reading the news about us because we are now not in the best moment – that would be slightly crazy – but I know enough how the world is. A lot of people speak before they think. We try to think before we do. Yes, we have a situation. We are here without Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, but we will still give it a try. What can we do now?
“People can say what they want. It’s a free world. Three weeks ago they said we will run away, three weeks later we are not even in contention for anything any more. That’s football, that’s the world. We have to stay calm.
“Why should I think that the boys cannot deal with the situation. Obviously you all think we will struggle, which means we now have to prove you wrong. That’s what we try now, and hopefully the results in the next few weeks will calm you all down, but I cannot promise that!”