Liverpool vs Ajax Preview: Can Reds be resilient and bring in same intensity without Alcantara and Van Dijk?
"We still will try," was Jurgen Klopp's response to coping with the absence of Thiago Alcantara and Virgil Van Dijk's injuries ahead of their UEFA Champions League clash against Ajax. Last week's stalemate against Everton saw their two big players go down with Van Dijk's injury being the more horrific one and could potentially see him out for the rest of the season. However, Klopp did provide a sense of relief for the fans that the side would still play its best competitive football.
It hasn't been the season Liverpool would have expected. While they might have known there would be stiff competition when they started off to defend their Premier League title, they are now no longer favorites to have a title brace. Much of it stems from the fact that other teams have been completely unpredictable and have actually taken the big clubs by the collar. Aston Villa handing the Reds a massive 7-2 defeat will be spoken for the next few years and the soothing balm would only be if Klopp's boys would win the title again.
Even while some discarded the loss as an off-day and an aberration that could happen to the best of the sides in top-tier football, Everton breached their defense and forced a draw in their Merseyside Derby. To add salt to their wounds, Jordan Pickford's knee-high tackle in the 11th minute that saw Van Dijk go down was a major blow. Even worse, the Everton goalkeeper went unpunished, but the Reds were dealt a cruel hand.
According to ESPN, things at the Liverpool camp were still gloomy and the players were reeling from news of the injury. Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, in his chat with the media ahead of the clash, made no secret of that fact. "We're still devastated," Wijnaldum said. "It's different than normal, the way it happened is really hard for us."
"I think everyone still has a bad feeling about it. When we were speaking with the lads after Saturday, I think none of the players slept because of what happened with Virgil and the way it happened. It's a really hard one to take, and it was a hard one for the team." However, it does appear the team will not take anything lightly when they face the Amsterdam side on Wednesday. "We will give it a proper try, I promise you. No excuses for nothing. We know how strong Ajax is, we respect them a lot," he said.
Despite the fact, Ajax will be without Sergino Dest, Hakim Ziyech, and Donny van de Beek, Klopp will know a thing or two about shock defeats. Without their vice-captain and their best center-half, the game will be a test of not just their defense, but also their resilience. The focus will be on their top-three— Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane to lead from the front.
"Why should I think that the boys cannot deal with the situation?" Klopp asked back." Obviously, you all think we will struggle, which means we now have to prove you wrong. That’s what we try now, and hopefully, the results in the next few weeks will calm you all down, but I cannot promise that!" Quite simply, this is ample proof the reigning champs are quietly confident of taking on Ajax and the three points. He might not have made a promise, but he did hint the season's far from over.
Kick-off is slated for 3 pm ET on Wednesday, October 21. The game can be watched live on CBS All Access.