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.


Mohamed Salah sure Liverpool can handle the pressure of Premier League title tilt

Updated 30 min 59 sec ago
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Mohamed Salah sure Liverpool can handle the pressure of Premier League title tilt

  • Reds face Manchester United on Sunday in crouch clash.
  • Egyptian ace says Reds will embrace the pressure as they g in each of first top-flight title since 1990.

LONDON: Mohamed Salah is in no doubt Liverpool can handle the pressure of the title run in, ahead of their crunch clash against arch-rivals Manchester United.
The Reds lie second in the Premier League table to Manchester City on goal difference, though with a game in hand. It was barely a month ago that they enjoyed a seven-point lead over the Abu Dhabi-owed club, but draws against Leicester and West Ham raised fears that Liverpool were starting to feel the strain of bidding for a first top-flight title since 1990.
But Salah has sought to put fans’ fears at ease, claiming the Reds are ready to embrace the pressure, starting away at Old Trafford against familiar foe United.
“I said in November that there is pressure and it will be there until the end of the season, because when you play for the Premier League you have to accept that there is pressure,” Salah told Sky Sports.
“When you go home you can take it with you, but it can help you to work harder and focus on your game.
“At the end of the day you have a target in your mind, you have a dream, you want to win the Premier League. I even said that two years ago when I came — it is a dream to win the Premier League.”
Added to the pressure of trying to win the title is the fact that a clash against Manchester United is like nothing else the Reds come up against all season. The two teams are arch-rivals and Salah is only too aware that their North West neighbors would like nothing more than to ruin the Reds’ title charge.
The United encounter is the first of three tough fixtures in a week for Liverpool, with a midweek clash with Watford and the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on Sunday to come — a run of games that is not lost on Salah.
“It is a very big week for us,” Salah said. “And if we win three games and are top of the table, that is huge for us. When you have three games in a week or ten days, you just need to win, win, win, then after that you have time to think.
“Even when we are not top of the league, I know how much United want to win against Liverpool and Everton the same. For me it is not a big deal. We just need to do what we have been doing for the last couple of months.”