Premier League • England

Van Dijk outlines key Liverpool strength that ‘has to continue’ as defender reveals what has pleased him most during tricky period

Liverpool stars Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk

Mo Salah and Virgil van Dijk have been linked with Liverpool exits

Virgil van Dijk feels the way that the Liverpool fringe players have stepped up to ease their injury woes is a massive bonus for the club.

The Reds have enjoyed a strong start to the season and sat third heading into the weekend’s fixtures. They have already qualified for the knockout stage of the Europa League as Jurgen Klopp eyes further silverware at Anfield. Ahead of Sunday’s home clash with Fulham, the Merseysiders had lost just one top-flight fixture.

And they secured a morale-boosting 1-1 draw with champions Manchester City last time out.

The north-west giants are about to enter a busy period, with nine games in 29 days, including the busy festive period.

And they will have to do it without a few key players.

However, Van Dijk is confident that Liverpool have strength in depth to deal with the situation.

“I know it is a cliche that injuries are part and parcel of football and as players we all know the risks involved, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you lose anyone to any kind of setback,” he wrote in the official matchday programme.

“Right now, we are without Thiago, Robbo (Andy Robertson), Diogo Jota, Alisson and Stefan Bajcetic.

“It goes without saying that we all wish them well in their ongoing recoveries. The sooner they are back the better.

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“At the same time, though, we have to be ready to cope as a squad because injuries can and do happen and when they do the players who come in have to make the most of their opportunity.”

Van Dijk stoked by squad mentality

Liverpool endured a poor campaign by their recent high standards last season.

A fifth-place finish saw them fail to qualify for the Champions League and they ended up trophyless.

The signs are good that Klopp is on track to put that right this term, with many of the new players bedding in well.

However, it is those on the fringes that have caught Van Dijk’s eye. And the Dutchman is delighted that the players who have been called on have done the business.

“Football is a squad game these days and we have had so many players who have made a positive difference whether they have started games, come off the bench, been an unused substitute or just been involved with training,” he added.

“By setting high standards across the board, we improve our chances of success, so it can never just be about the 90-100 minutes itself.”

Many pundits feel it may well be down to Liverpool to challenge Manchester City’s Premier League dominance this season.

Arsenal look set to have a say in proceedings as well. But Van Dijk certainly seems upbeat after what he has witnessed over the past few months.

“The work that goes on in the training ground, the mood that is created in the dressing room and the general standards that we set ourselves and one another from one day to the next are so important and this means it is up to all of us to play our part,” he continued.

“This has definitely been one of our strengths so far this season and it has to continue.”

Klopp’s men face back-to-back away league games following the Fulham encounter with trips to Sheffield United and Crystal Palace.

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