Liverpool must not be overly defensive at City, says van Dijk

Milner stresses need to stay on front foot despite three-goal lead in Champions League tie

Liverpool must play their natural attacking game and not think defensively despite holding a 3-0 lead going into Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg away to Manchester City, centre back Virgil van Dijk says.

Premier League leaders City were blown away by three goals in the opening 31 minutes at Anfield and suffered a further psychological blow on Saturday when losing after holding a 2-0 lead at home to their neighbours Manchester United.

Van Dijk was speaking after an unusually bloodless Merseyside derby away to Everton earlier in the day finished 0-0. An identical result in Manchester would comfortably qualify his team for the semi-final but he was a little disappointed with the performance at Goodison Park and is hoping for a positive approach on Tuesday.

"We are going to discuss it over the next couple of days but I think we need to do our own thing," he told the Liverpool website (


“We don’t need to go there and think we need to defend, we just need to play our game as we did in the first half against them. It’s going to be a very hard game but I’m looking forward to it.”

He felt Liverpool suffered a little on Saturday from their exertions in the City game. “Three days after the Champions League game it’s tough,” he added.

“We were sloppy, obviously we had our moments but it was hard. I’m only happy with the clean sheet.

“In the first half we had our moments but in the second half it wasn’t good enough so we need to learn from it and be ready for Tuesday.

“Sometimes we need to play better, myself as well, but you can’t deny that some legs are a bit tired.”

Liverpool are hoping that Mohamed Salah, whose goal in the first leg was his 38th of the season, will be fit for the return. He was taken off after 52 minutes against City with a groin injury and did not play against Everton.

Midfielder James Milner insists the co-ordinated approach to the team’s defensive organisation will be key to keeping City at bay. Jürgen Klopp’s side have registered back-to-back clean sheets and Milner has been a key player in both games. The 32-year-old is making light of his age in terms of the job he does pressing in midfield but he stressed he is just a cog in the whole machine.

“My running numbers are pretty consistent throughout the year, we get them regularly but I think it was slightly higher the other night [against City],” he said. “That is part of the midfield job and it’s been part of my game being able to cover ground and it is something that’s needed in this team.

“We are always pressing and you can’t leave your mate to press on his own, you have to press in numbers and if one person doesn’t do their job or get on the front foot and cover the ground and close the gap then the team gets out and you are under pressure.

“Everyone puts a shift in and it’s very easy to see when someone isn’t doing it – and it doesn’t happen very often.”

First priority

City’s defeat in the Manchester derby on Saturday was the first time a Pep Guardiola side had conceded three goals in successive games in his 514-match managerial career. That gives Liverpool hope of snatching an away goal which would require City to score five on Tuesday, but the first priority is to keep their opponents at bay for as long as possible.

“They are a top team, we know that. There are a lot of things which could affect it but we are in a good position,” Milner added. “But we know it is not over yet as they are a special team and good going forward and we have to be ready to defend well and hopefully get a goal.

“They are such a good team and have such good players going forward we want to approach it as we approach every game, try and win the game and approach it as a one-off and play the match over 90 minutes.

“We’ve got a 3-0 advantage at half-time so it’s down to us not to sit back and be on the front foot.”

Klopp will hope to have some good news on the injury front after fielding an understrength side at Goodison Park, which almost backfired with Seamus Coleman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin both missing good chances to end Everton’s 17-match run without a derby win.

The Liverpool manager named Roberto Firmino on the bench along with three academy players in Curtis Jones, Rafael Camacho and Conor Masterson, who were only issued with Premier League squad numbers on Friday.