Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha says that he takes time to study Virgil van Dijk’s game before facing up against the Liverpool defender.
Van Dijk has proved himself to be one of the world’s best centre-backs since his move to Anfield.
Indeed, as well as attributes such as aerial prowess, pace and strength, the 29-year-old has added reliability. He played every Premier League game in the previous two seasons.
What’s more, he had featured in every game of the current top-flight campaign before suffering a serious knee injury in October.
Van Dijk subsequently missed the clash against the Eagles in December and it remains unclear whether he will return for the reverse fixture on Merseyside in May.
But the pair have met before and Zaha has revealed how he follows the defender’s game closely.
“He’s fast, calm, strong. He’s got everything,” the 28-year-old told the Greatest Game Podcast. “Obviously Rio [Ferdinand] was just composed to the next level, but I feel like Virgil has everything down to a tee.
“Like to the point where he can muck about when a ball comes over the top and flick it around the striker and stuff and he’s fast enough to get back on to it.
“I don’t look into defender’s games as much as when I play against him.
“When we play against Liverpool it’s like, how am I going to get around this guy?”
Zaha was referencing Van Dijk’s defensive flick away at Southampton last season, when he dealt with a dangerous pass over the top with ease.
Klopp wary of plugging Van Dijk gap
However, Liverpool have felt his absence – as well as that of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – this season.
The Reds have become heavily depleted at the back, having to play defensive midfielder Fabinho at centre-back. Indeed, the Brazilian has played alongside fringe players and fellow midfielder Jordan Henderson in recent weeks.
However, manager Jurgen Klopp has warned that it is unlikely he will fix his problems with a new signing in January.