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Van Dijk backs Liverpool to compete on multiple fronts

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Virgil van Dijk insists Liverpool can enjoy a strong challenge for the Champions League crown © AFP / Paul ELLIS

LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Dec 11Virgil van Dijk insists Liverpool have a strong enough squad to maintain a challenge for both the Premier League and the Champions League.

Jurgen Klopp’s side went top of the English top flight with a 4-0 victory at Bournemouth on Saturday.

But Liverpool will be eliminated from Europe’s elite club competition if they fail to get the right winning result against Napoli at Anfield on Tuesday.

Netherlands defender Van Dijk has acknowledged Liverpool will have no one to blame but themselves if they fail to qualify from Champions League Group C, having lost all three of their away games.

Former Manchester United star Gary Neville, now a television pundit, suggested in September that Klopp did not have a squad capable of being competitive both domestically and in Europe, adding Liverpool should consider prioritising the Premier League.

Klopp disagreed with that at the time, and Van Dijk is adamant he and his team-mates will be able to cope with the demands of the knockout stages from February, should they get through.

“We are definitely capable of competing in both competitions. And hopefully that’s still going to be the case tomorrow,” Van Dijk told reporters on Monday.

Asked what he thought about people suggesting elimination from the Champions League would benefit Liverpool in the Premier League, the centre-back responded: “I don’t think they’re Liverpool fans.

“We want to compete at the highest level. We are top of the league now, but obviously that could change next week. You never know.

“But the main thing for us is that we want to stay at the highest level and we’re going to do everything that’s possible to go through.

“It’s going to be a tough game, we know it, but I’m very confident.”

Liverpool were beaten 1-0 by Napoli when the sides met in Italy in October, a result that has potentially made progress trickier for Van Dijk and his colleagues on Tuesday.

– ‘We were poor’ –

Klopp’s team, who will begin the night third in their group, have to win to stand any chance of overtaking Paris Saint-Germain in second.

Should PSG fail to beat Red Star, then any victory will take Liverpool through.

However, a win for the French champions would leave Klopp’s team needing to finish above Napoli to go through.

In that scenario, a 1-0 victory would leave the two teams level on head-to-head record and goal difference, with Liverpool then finishing above Napoli by virtue of having scored more goals.

Any other one-goal victory, though, would take Napoli through on head-to-head record, by virtue of having scored more away goals than Liverpool in their matches against each other.

It is why Liverpool’s failure to score in Naples could yet be costly, with Van Dijk acknowledging that his team were not good enough that night.

“Oh, we were poor that night, all of us. We deserved to get beaten. I think it’s going to be totally different over here,” he said.

“It’s not about putting it right. We want to show that we belong in the Champions League.

“We want to show we’re much better than what they saw over there.”

Van Dijk, however, has warned that Liverpool’s performance will dictate what they deserve on Tuesday.

“Napoli are one of the most dangerous teams in Europe, and we have not been at our best in the Champions League, so we deserve to be in this position that we’re now in,” he said.

“If we don’t win tomorrow, we don’t deserve to be in the Champions League. We hope that’s not going to happen.

“We’ve got to win, and we hope to progress and show that we definitely belong in there.”

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