Virgil van Dijk claims Napoli win can act as springboard to Champions League glory for Liverpool

With the current form of Mohamed Salah it is perhaps no surprise to find Van Dijk confident for the rest of the Champions League campaign. (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Virgil van Dijk claims Napoli win can act as springboard to Champions League glory for Liverpool

LIVERPOOL: Virgil Van Dijk has claimed Liverpool can use their Champions League escape against Napoli as a springboard to win Europe’s elite club competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s side booked their place in the last 16 with a tense 1-0 win over Napoli at Anfield on Tuesday night.
A fine finish from Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead, but the Reds needed goalkeeper Alisson to make a superb save to deny Arkadiusz Milik in the closing seconds before they could finally relax.
Liverpool are also top of the Premier League after going unbeaten in their first 16 games this season, raising the prospect of Klopp’s men winning a first English title since 1990 while also challenging for a sixth European Cup.
Dutch defender Van Dijk sees no reason why Liverpool cannot win the Champions League this term after going close last year, when they lost in the final against Real Madrid.
“It’s something that we all want, it’s something that we are going to give everything for,” Van Dijk said.
“We want to play on the highest level and the Champions League, other than the Premier League, for us is the highest level.
“We want to reach the maximum and hopefully do better than we did last year in the Champions League. You need to have dreams, you need to go for it, otherwise why would you be a footballer?
“It’s a great time to be a Liverpool fan or player. It’s tough but enjoy it and embrace it. These are the days you want to experience as a footballer and we are.”
Liverpool have conceded just six goals in the league this season and, after some less solid displays in their previous Champions League games, they managed to replicate that domestic defensive strength to keep Napoli at bay.
Van Dijk revealed much of that is built on the team ethic which means the players being confident enough to challenge each other in order to maintain their high standards.
“You need to be hard with each other. When things aren’t going right you need to tell each other, otherwise it’s going to be too easy. I think that’s a sign of a good team,” he said.
“When people are shouting at me I take it because they want to make me better and (if it is) their mistake they take it as well if I shout to them.
“That’s how it is, we’re all grown-ups, we take it and after the game if you’re not happy with it then you discuss it.”
Van Dijk said Liverpool had been frustrated at missing “big chances” against Napoli, including one opportunity that he himself volleyed over the bar.
“We could have made it a lot easier, we could have scored another two or three, we didn’t, and then it was important for us to win our battles and keep it tight and we did,” he said.


Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

Updated 17 February 2019
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Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

  • Defeat leaves Real in third, nine points behind arch-rivals Barcelona.
  • Girona had not won in the league since November.

LONDON: Santiago Solari insisted Real Madrid could still win the La Liga title despite a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Girona.
The capital club were coming off a five-match winning streak, but were not able to get past their relegation-threatened rivals at the Bernabeu, conceding twice in the second half after taking a 1-0 half-time lead.
Girona had not won in 13 matches in all competitions and were coming off six straight losses. The Catalan club had not won in the league since November and had entered the weekend one point from the relegation zone. So to say this was a shock would be understating the case, Real were on the up, and this was supposed to be an easy win to aid their slim title hopes and add to the momentum of their good 2019 form.
But Solari — clearly a “glass half full” man — claimed Real’s title charge was far from over. Asked if the title was lost, the Argentine, who took over the asked Julen Lopetegui in October, said: “Not at all, not at all, next week there is another match, our rivals, too. All the matches are difficult, as Girona have shown today, we have to keep winning to try to cut the gap.
“This is football and there is always a rival, in this case Girona, who played well.
“In the second half there was a lot of energy. Girona were forceful when they attacked and we lacked clarity. The fatigue is not only physical, it is mental, concentration. We come from a major bustle, many games with good results, and that may have happened to us at the energy level in the second half. It’s likely.”
The surprise defeat dropped Madrid to third place and left them nine points behind Barcelona, who edged Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday with a penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi. The result at the Nou Camp ended a three-game winless run for the Girona neighbors in all competitions.
Madrid had won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions, with the only setback a 1-1 draw at Barca in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. They had cut Barcelona’s lead from 10 points to six in recent rounds after seeing their arch-rivals go through a slump.
Solari made some changes to the starting lineup, leaving Vinicius Junior and Gareth Bale on the bench after they started midweek in the 2-1 win at Ajax in the Champions League second round clash.
Casemiro opened the scoring with a firm header from near the penalty spot in the 25th minute after a cross by Toni Kroos, and Girona equalized with a penalty kick converted by Cristhian Stuani in the 65th after a handball by Sergio Ramos inside the area.
Girona had a golden chance to equalize about five minutes before the penalty, when Aleix Garcia’s close-range shot went over the crossbar. The visitors moved in front with a 75th-minute header by Portu after Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois initially saved a shot by Anthony Lozano.
Portu had hit the post a few minutes earlier with a booming shot from inside the area.
Solari put on Vinicius Junior and Bale in the second half, but they were unable to save Real. Courtois made it to the area in a last-gasp attempt, but could not get enough on his header, sending the ball just wide of the post.
As if to emphasize the dire day, Ramos was sent off in 90th minute after receiving a second yellow card.