“Let’s enjoy the ride!” – Virgil van Dijk relishing Liverpool’s title pursuit

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk insists they will “enjoy the ride” of challenging Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

Pep Guardiola’s side briefly went top of the table for the first time since November with their lunchtime win over Everton before a 3-1 victory over Burnley restored the Reds’ two-point lead.

The game against the Clarets was not without its difficulties and a record crowd of 59,896 endured some testing moments before second-half goals from Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez eased the pressure.

Van Dijk accepts there will be a degree of nervousness attached to their bid to prevent City winning an unprecedented fourth title in a row just because of the sustained consistency of their rivals’ results come this time of year but he believes Liverpool, who are still fighting on four fronts, are well placed.

“I think everyone would love to be in this situation that you are on the top and fighting for the pinnacle which is winning the Premier League,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to stay calm. In the first half when Burnley became a couple of times dangerous you felt the crowd get a bit nervous but that is how a human being is.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 10, 2024: Liverpool's Darwin Nunez celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We need the fans, we need all the players, we need everyone to be ready in order to find a way to win the game.

“We will have setbacks, we will have moments of difficulty but we have to deal with that. Let’s just enjoy the ride.

“We are in a situation that I think last year around this time you would never, well maybe not never, have believed where we are today.

“We can only influence what we are doing. That’s the only thing.”

After suffering only their second defeat at Arsenal the previous weekend, Liverpool – missing goalkeeper Alisson Becker and Joe Gomez through illness, Ibrahima Konate through suspension and Mohamed Salah and Dominik Szobozslai through injury, a list which was added to by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s half-time withdrawal with a recurrence of a knee problem – struggled to find any rhythm.

Even when they took the lead on the half-hour mark when Diogo Jota nodded in from close range after Burnley goalkeeper James Trafford misjudged an Alexander-Arnold corner, they were still not in control and Dara O’Brien’s powerful header could have posed a problem but Diaz’s goal seven minutes after the break allowed them to settle more.

 

Elliott’s influence from the bench

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 10, 2024: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alexander-Arnold’s replacement Harvey Elliott provided both the assists and, despite earlier in the season admitting he did not want to be a ‘super sub’, his contributions off the bench have arguably been more influential than his displays when starting.

“It’s very important for these guys that when they have their moments, Harvey in this case, they grab them with both hands. We need them,” added Van Dijk.

“Even if you start on the bench, you have to be ready to make an impact. This was a great example of that again.

“He (Elliott) would love to be playing week in, week out, but playing at the highest level you also have to be patient and don’t be frustrated that you don’t play as sometimes it is part of the business.”