Van Dijk warns Liverpool to be braced for ‘big fight’
Central defender back in situ for clash with Bayern Munich
Virgil van Dijk: “At times it is going to be very hard and we will need to patient.” Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA
Bayern held Liverpool to a goalless draw in the last-16 first leg at Anfield with a performance that Van Dijk describes as a show of respect to the Premier League contenders. Liverpool, however, lost all three away fixtures in the Champions League group phase and the Netherlands captain admits a necessary improvement rests on how they absorb pressure from the new leaders of the Bundesliga.
“It is going to be an exciting tie,” said Van Dijk, who missed the first leg through suspension three weeks ago but is available for the return match on Wednesday.
“They played very well here, kept it tight especially at the back and obviously showed us a lot of respect. They changed a bit the way they played I think, so we need to be up for a big fight because they are probably going to come all in, especially in the beginning. It is going to be tough and we need to do better than we did in the last away games in the Champions League.
“The group stage games were not as good as we wanted but we got through to the knockout phase. Now we have a 0-0 and we want to do everything that is possible to get through. We know it is going to be a very hard and tough game.”
Bayern replaced Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga on goal difference at the weekend thanks to a 6-0 rout of Wolfsburg. Van Dijk believes the second leg demands not only a show of leadership from Liverpool but also game-management from a team with the experience of reaching the final last season.
Van Dijk said: “Sometimes you have to know how to manage games because at times it is going to be very hard and we will need to patient, ready for what is coming. There will times when it is going to be very tough and we are going to be under pressure because they have a lot of quality and they showed that.
“But we will definitely have our own moments because of the quality we have as well. Everyone can see how tough it is already in the Champions League. The situation is we have a 0-0 to start with and hopefully we can get the job done.”
Niko Kovac, the Bayern coach, and the defender Mats Hummels admitted at Anfield that they were satisfied with the first-leg result but Van Dijk insists there is no advantage ahead of the decider.
“To keep a clean sheet in the first leg is always good for both teams but we know if we score they need to score two, that is how it is,” he said.
“We know they have a lot of quality. They showed us a lot of respect here already and we need to use that respect and play our game and go through.”