Jurgen Klopp has outlined his admiration for Liverpool’s clean sheet against Bayern Munich without the “big man” Virgil van Dijk in the Champions League.
The Reds held their German counterparts to a 0-0 stalemate in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 match at Anfield on Tuesday night.
How important is Van Dijk to Liverpool? Five key things to know…
- Signed for a record £75m fee for a defender from Southampton last year, Van Dijk has transformed Liverpool’s defence.
- This season, the club have conceded just 15 Premier League goals – the fewest amount of any side.
- Van Dijk has played all 26 league matches and kept 14 clean sheets in that time, with Sami Hyypia recently calling him the “ultimate centre-back”.
- The Dutchman was forced to sit out of the Bayern fixture through suspension, but the club coped without him.
- Only Aymeric Laporte has registered more accurate passes (2133) than Van Dijk (1907) of any Premier League defender this season.
Klopp was forced to make wholesale defensive changes with Van Dijk serving out a one-match suspension after picking up three yellow cards in the group stages.
A makeshift centre-back partnership of Joel Matip and the ever-versatile Fabinho was deployed by Klopp and the pairing worked well in tandem, keeping the Bavarians at bay for 90 minutes – something people did not expect possible without Van Dijk, the Liverpool boss highlighted.
Talking to reporters after the match, he said: “It was a clean sheet without the big man [Van Dijk]. A lot of people wouldn’t have expected that.
“The defending was good. A lot of things were really good.
“The positive is the result is OK, the best draw we can get. Yes, we can play better; we should play better.
“The tie is not over – we said that. We had to create the basis tonight that we can use in the second leg.”
The German giants failed to muster a single shot on target against Liverpool, with manager Niko Kovac seemingly content with taking a 0-0 draw back to the Allianz Arena for the return leg.
Klopp will take on his old adversaries in the decisive fixture next month on March 13 with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.
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“It was not a game we will remember in 20 years”
This was the first time Bayern have played Liverpool at Anfield in nearly 40 years, coincidentally another 0-0 draw on Merseyside in the 1981 European Cup.
Despite the anticipation of two of Europe’s great footballing aristocrats colliding at Anfield, the match produced just two shots on target and largely petered out in the second half; as such, Klopp doesn’t believe it will live long in the memory.
He said: “If Bayern had been full of confidence we might have had more space. Both centre-half pairings had a lot of ball and played around.
“Not a lot of things happened. We had our moments and in those moments you have to score.
“It was an intense game for both sides. It was not a game we will remember in 20 years.”
Attention now turns to the Premier League as Liverpool play a crunch tie against fierce rivals, Manchester United, on Sunday.