Belfast Telegraph

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Gareth McAuley: Fear factor making the difference for Liverpool with Virgil van Dijk in second gear

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk (Martin Rickett/PA)
Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk (Martin Rickett/PA)
Gareth McAuley

By Gareth McAuley

The major difference with Liverpool this season is the fear factor.

For many years, Manchester United, under Sir Alex Ferguson, held that mantle.

But now Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are the formidable machine in the Premier League.

The title-chasing Reds are by no means on a par with Fergie's all-conquering United teams, however they are certainly at the start of that journey.

There is a genuine fear around playing them.

If you look at the age and quality within the Liverpool squad, they appear to be ready for the boom and be that dominant force.

I watch most of their games on TV and honestly find myself, someone who has played over 200 Premier League games, asking, how was I able to play at that level?

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It's seriously impressive.

The thought of going to Anfield these days must fill certain teams with dread.

It was similar to my early years with West Brom when we played United at Old Trafford.

At times, they were such a force, you were thinking 'let's just keep the score down' or 'if we can get out of here with a 0-0 that would be a good result' or 0-1 at absolute best.

Going to Anfield to play Liverpool then wasn't particularly daunting - especially as West Brom had enjoyed quite a few decent results at Anfield.

How times have changed.

Old Trafford is no longer the fortress it once was while Liverpool, having gone so close in the league last year, won the Champions League and before that, been in the Champions League final, so it proves they have been building steadily and their consistency will be the difference this year.

The Liverpool front line is amazing but they are equally strong at the back with Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk and I really believe Virgil has gone there and changed the team into contenders for honours both domestically and on the European front.

Amazingly, he's still playing in second gear.

Then, there is their manager Jurgen Klopp.

I don't know him first hand but I am aware he pushes his players to the absolute limit, in terms of high intensity. I know from speaking to their doc, Andy Massey (former Northern Ireland medic) that every day in training is high intensity and that is then demonstrated on the pitch.

I don't know what their sprint figures are but I would say they are through the roof in comparison to the average stats for the Premier League.

Klopp, as every manager should, is always looking for that extra edge but as a player I must admit I find the fact he comes out to the pitch and watches the opposition warm-up before games rather than his own players, strange.

I remember thinking during the first couple of times, 'why is he watching us?'

Maybe it's a psychological thing, it's certainly unusual.

Liverpool have a big enough fear factor going on without the preying eyes of Klopp trying to put you off.

Belfast Telegraph


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