Virgil Van Dijk set for knee surgery to leave Liverpool facing defensive dilemma

Liverpool face the prospect of being without Virgil Van Dijk for several months after it was confirmed their key defender requires knee surgery – but they are reluctant to rule him out for the season.

News of anterior cruciate ligament damage to the 29-year-old, sustained in a controversial high challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in Saturday's 2-2 Merseyside derby draw, is the nightmare scenario for the Reds.

"Following surgery, Van Dijk will begin a rehabilitation programme with the club's medical team to enable him to reach full fitness as soon as possible," a club statement said.

Not only does the injury rob them of one of their most influential players for the majority of their Premier League title defence, but also leaves Liverpool with just two senior centre-backs in Joel Matip, who has been plagued by niggling injuries himself, and Joe Gomez.

Jurgen Klopp opted not to replace Dejan Lovren when he left for Zenit St Petersburg in the summer and was content to gamble on utilising midfielder Fabinho as cover.

The damage suffered in his clash with Pickford, for which the Everton goalkeeper escaped punishment due to VAR official David Coote overlooking the tackle after ruling on the Holland captain's offside in the build-up, means Van Dijk will have to have an operation.

26 PHOTOS
Controversy reigns in Merseyside derby
See Gallery
Controversy reigns in Merseyside derby
Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp reacts during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Michael Keane (C) of Everton celebrates his goal with James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure (L) during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17 2020 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Carlo Ancelotti of Everton after the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17 2020 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT ) Jordan Henderson captain of Liverpool Celebrates after scoring the third goal for Liverpool But then V.A.R. Cancelled his goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT ) Thiago Alcantara of Liverpool with Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool with Adrian of Liverpool at the end of the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Everton's Italian head coach Carlo Ancelotti (L) and Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp share a light moment during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Peter Byrne / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by PETER BYRNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Referee Michael Oliver shows a red card to Richarlison of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: The decision to rule out a goal for offside following a VAR review is displayed on a screen inside the stadium during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Everton's Portuguese midfielder André Gomes (L) and Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson take the knee before the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Everton's English striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin (L) and Everton's Colombian defender Yerry Mina react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Peter Byrne / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by PETER BYRNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (L) and Everton's Italian head coach Carlo Ancelotti react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Richarlison of Everton goes down injured during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Peter Byrne - Pool/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT )Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin scores the second goal making the score 2-2 and celebrates during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT )Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin scores the second goal making the score 2-2 during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT )Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin scores the second goal making the score 2-2 during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT )Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scores the second goal making the score 2-1 and celebrates during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT )Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scores the second goal making the score 2-1 and celebrates during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Liverpool's Senegalese striker Sadio Mane reacts during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Peter Byrne / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by PETER BYRNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT ) Evertons Keane scores for Everton to make it 1-1 during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Michael Keane of Everton celebrates with teammates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk leaves the field injured during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson reacts after being hit in the face with the ball during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, Liverpool. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Michael Keane of Everton celebrates his goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17 2020 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT )Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool collides with Everton's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT )Sadio Mane of Liverpool opens the scoring for liverpool and celebrates during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool comes off due to an injury during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

However, club sources are unwilling to write off his season just yet, considering the player's previously excellent fitness record, and remain hopeful he can still play a part in the campaign at some point.

It leaves Klopp with an immediate headache as he faces having to field the untested pair of Matip, whose return in the Merseyside derby was his first appearance since the opening day, and Gomez, who was dropped at the weekend after some recent patchy form.

The 23-year-old Nat Phillips, with just one FA Cup appearance to his name either side of two loan spells at Stuttgart last season, is now the back-up option, with the highly-rated but unproven 17-year-old Billy Koumetio another alternative.

Liverpool's defence has looked leaky already this season, conceding 13 goals in five matches, including seven at Aston Villa, with Van Dijk in the back four, so his absence for any length of time would raise real questions about their chances of staying the distance in a title race.

Klopp, however, was keen to throw his backing behind Gomez after a shaky couple of weeks.

I wish you a speedy recovery big man pic.twitter.com/8kbK9rjy8O

— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) October 18, 2020

"The set-piece (for Everton's first) was unlucky because Virgil was not on the pitch, we sorted it in the game but it was the first corner when he was not on the pitch," he said.

"Joe Gomez played a sensational game, a good game. I am not worried about the boys.

"The problem we have at the moment is that I am not really in a good mood, I have injured players in the dressing room and that is not good."

The news on midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who also went for a scan on a knee problem sustained in the tackle which saw Richarlison sent off late on, is slightly more promising.

Thiago Alcantara also hurt his knee against Everton, but his injury is not thought to be serious

Liverpool have to wait for the injury to settle but are optimistic it is not serious, although their £20m summer signing from Bayern Munich is unlikely to feature this week against Ajax.

The club have lodged a request with the Premier League asking for a review of the Merseyside derby VAR decisions.

They have asked why Pickford's challenge on Van Dijk was not considered for a red card just because the Dutchman had been ruled offside by a replay and also for an explanation on the mechanics which saw Sadio Mane ruled offside in the build-up to what would have been a Jordan Henderson added-time winner.

Liverpool are also understood to be concerned by the confusing and contradictory messaging emanating from the Premier League.

While not calling into question of the integrity of officials, the club believe it is crucial to have more transparency around how and why the outcomes were determined for the integrity of the game for everyone and the safety of players. Conflicting versions of events, it is understood, have left Liverpool officials deeply troubled.

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS