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Virgil van Dijk loves the challenge of facing Erling Haaland – “One of the best”

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Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk is relishing his forthcoming personal challenge with Manchester City’s Erling Haaland.

The two title rivals meet at Anfield on Sunday in the biggest game of the season so far when the irresistible force of the Norway striker will come up against the immovable object which is Van Dijk.

Both players are currently in peak form and their duel will be a game within the game but the Dutchman knows it will not just be the result of their individual battle which will determine the outcome.

“It’s obviously going to be a massive game for both sides and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of facing the treble winners,” he told the PA news agency.

“It’s always good to come up against one of the best and most in-form strikers in the world.

“He is a natural goalscorer, he has proven it and his numbers are speaking for themselves so it will be a tough afternoon but it’s a battle I am looking forward to.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 16, 2022: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (L) and Manchester City's Erling Haaland during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Asked if Haaland, who has scored three times in six appearances for City against Liverpool – well down on his average of almost a goal a game – has caused him problems in the past Van Dijk added: “Of course.

“I’ve caused him problems, he’s caused me problems – that’s how it works. These battles are always tough.

“But like I said I think he is looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to it.”

While the title race is a long way from being decided on Sunday a win for Liverpool would put them four points ahead of City with 10 matches remaining.

Liverpool’s record at Anfield against them is good as they have lost just once – two years ago – since 2003, winning 13 of the last 20 fixtures on home soil.

However, Van Dijk insists nothing should be read into the outcome of this weekend’s game.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 25, 2023: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk leads his side out before the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“There’s too long to go. Obviously it is a massive game, you can’t deny that,” he added.

“There will be a lot of eyes on it but we have one aim and that’s to try to win the game.

“We are at home and we are looking forward to the big challenge but the big opportunity as well.

“We want to get a good result. That’s the only thing we will try and do, not going out there to make statements.

“But we know we are going to face a team which is very good and it will be tough.”

Liverpool’s 5-1 first-leg win over Sparta Prague in the Czech capital means they already have one foot in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

That is a boost ahead of eight days which begin at home to City and finish at Manchester United in the FA Cup, with the return leg against Sparta in between but now less of a complication than it may have been.