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Virgil van Dijk expects “difficult” Man United – but they can’t play for 0-0 this time

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Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk believes the history with arch-rivals Manchester United means Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final meeting carries additional expectations.

A week after playing out a Premier League classic in a top-of-the-table 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp‘s side head to Old Trafford on the next leg of their quest for an unprecedented quadruple.

United are starting to gain some form – eight wins and just two defeats in the last 11 games – after an indifferent first half of the season and that makes the weekend’s quarter-final clash more intriguing.

Asked about the rivalry, Van Dijk said: “Intense. Not only the actual game but the whole build-up is a game on its own, but I like to be involved in these type of games.

“We always have a difficult games against them and I expect a difficult one on Sunday as well.

“They are finding ways to win but I focus on what we have to do against them. It’s always difficult, it’s always intense.

“The history of the games with the two biggest clubs in England brings extra expectation and pressure but why not just go out there and enjoy it, play our game and hopefully go to the next round?”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 14, 2024: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott and Cody Gakpo celebrate the sixth goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 2nd Leg match between Liverpool FC and AC Sparta Praha at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool head into the game on the back of a 6-1 Europa League thrashing of Sparta Prague – a tie which finished 11-2 on aggregate – with their forwards all in form.

Mohamed Salah became the first player in the club’s history to score 20 goals in seven successive seasons, Darwin Nunez has 17, and Cody Gakpo‘s two against the Czech champions took him to 13 for the campaign.

Luis Diaz, an unused substitute, is expected to start on Sunday looking to add to his tally of 13, six of which have come in the last 14 games.

United are the only team in the last 55 matches to prevent Liverpool from scoring after an ultra-defensive display in a goalless draw at Anfield in December.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 17, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Van Dijk is not sure they can adopt the same approach on Sunday, especially with 9,000 visiting fans inside Old Trafford.

“I think the game here was, I wouldn’t say one-sided but we had a lot of the ball,” he added.

“They created a couple of dangerous moments on the break and we have to be aware of that but if they would do it exactly the same when they play at home, I have no idea.

“We have to focus on our game and make it as difficult as possible, press them as high as we want and play our football and hopefully we can get through.”