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Van Dijk's fitness isn't a weight on our shoulders, blasts Klopp

 

By Carl Markham

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists club-record signing Virgil van Dijk is not overweight and his fitness is not an issue.

Former Reds defender Jamie Carragher suggested on Thursday's Sky Sports The Debate programme that the world's most expensive defender "needs to lose a bit of weight".

However, even though Klopp admits he rested the £75m January arrival from Southampton for Tuesday's win at Huddersfield, he rubbished claims the centre-back was overweight.

"Wow! I am sure Jamie needs a little bit of weight off but for Virgil it is not the case," he said. "He is a big and tall player, that is how it is. We have the best nutrition department and no one came to me and said we need to work with him.

"Being fit means at the end more muscle than anything else. It is not an issue, not at all."

Van Dijk is set to return to the starting line-up for tomorrow's visit of Tottenham which could play a significant part in the race for the top four.

Liverpool, in third, currently hold a two-point lead over fifth-placed Spurs and are looking to avenge their 4-1 defeat at Wembley back in October.

Van Dijk is likely to replace Dejan Lovren, who was substituted after 31 minutes at Wembley having endured a torrid time against Harry Kane, even if Klopp accepts the Dutchman is still getting to grips with his methods.

"When Virgil came here he was not fit, that is the truth because he had a long injury, then he played, then he was injured, then the transfer was kind of an open case and he didn't play for Southampton so it has not been a consistent season so far," Klopp said.

"I don't know him long enough to say, 'Yes, you can play all three games' in this moment so we had the opportunity with Dejan (at Huddersfield) so we had two completely fit players. That is why Virgil didn't play.

"He is still a new player but you cannot train in a Premier League match so we need to use the time between the matches and in the matches we have to deliver.

"It is just exactly as I expected it would be: a few ups and downs. We will see Virgil van Dijk at his best after the summer but we don't have the time to wait until then and why should we? He can bring in a lot of things already.

"It is quite difficult because our defending style - and I know how this sounds - is different to Southampton or to Holland so that's why it makes so much sense you get used to it."

The January transfer window saw Liverpool move out Daniel Sturridge, Marko Grujic, Lazar Markovic and Jon Flanagan - having previously sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona - with Van Dijk the only arrival.

Asked whether their top four chances had been enhanced or damaged, Klopp replied: "Neither I would say.

"We did what we thought was right, not everything was in our hands.

"Would we have preferred to keep Phil Coutinho? Yes, I think everyone knows that but I think it was sensible to do it.

"The senior players we loaned out made sense as well: Marko needed match time, Lazar it was clear he had not play football for a long time and Anderlecht is a fantastic solution - the same as Bolton is for Flanno.

"Daniel wanted to leave as well and with Roberto (Firmino), Dom (Solanke) and Danny Ings we have three players in that position plus maybe Mo Salah on a specific day can play as well so that made sense as well."

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, echoed Klopp by insisting Lucas Moura will need time at Tottenham, and is not a finished article like Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

Moura was in Paris yesterday for personal reasons and he is unlikely to play against Liverpool tomorrow.

Spurs completed a £28m deal for Moura on the last day of the transfer window but Pochettino has called for patience with the Brazilian.

"We signed a player not playing at PSG," Pochettino said. "We signed a player who has not competed for six or seven months. Of course he's a name, an exciting name for our fans, but it's different to signing Neymar, Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. That would be different.

"The expectation is that he can help us in the next three months but we cannot put too much pressure on him. He needs to adapt, to get to know the players, the Premier League and the philosophy of a new team."

Asked if Moura will be included in the squad at Anfield, Pochettino said: "I don't want to say yes or no, but I don't think it is possible. He's still doing things - he was yesterday doing some tests with our sports science medical staff, today he's in Paris doing private things.

"Maybe he needs to work alone a little bit to reach the team's level. He can bring different qualities to the squad, he's an experienced player - young, but with a lot of experience at a big club like PSG. He scored a lot of goals last season, he's fast, he can fit with the team perfectly."

Pochettino also confirmed Moura would replace Argentinian defender Juan Foyth in Tottenham's Champions League squad for the knockout stages. Spurs play Juventus in the last 16 later this month.

"That is not only my decision but a club decision with the chairman, the administration, the chief scout," Pochettino said. "It was a club decision."

Tottenham will be hoping to sustain momentum this weekend after their excellent win over Manchester United. Another victory would see them jump ahead of Liverpool in the top four race.

"It will be massive to win," Pochettino said. "You need to arrive with confidence, it's so important to win. It will provide the team with a massive boost."

Harry Winks and Serge Aurier are both available after recovering from ankle and calf injuries respectively. Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose are still regaining fitness but could return.

Liverpool vs Tottenham

Premier League:

Anfield, Tomorrow, 4.30pm

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