Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk doesn’t think his team should change their adventurous outlook for Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final return at Manchester City, despite holding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg.
Provided they don’t collapse at the Etihad, the five-time European Cup winners are set to join Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in a glamorous semi-final line-up that will add to Liverpool’s proud heritage.
The temptation is there for manager Jurgen Klopp to try to shut up shop given the balance of the tie. But Van Dijk, who became the world’s most expensive defender when he signed from Southampton for £75million in January, believes that a change in philosophy would be self-defeating.
‘I don’t think it’s a good idea to sit back and see what they are going to do,’ said Van Dijk. ‘We just have to play our game and try to score goals. We need to be aware and ready for anything.
‘Everybody knows how much quality City have got. You could see that in the second half at Anfield when they were pressing us. I don’t think people will say this tie is all over.’
Liverpool have tightened up at the back since Van Dijk arrived but the Dutchman, dominant in the air against City, is eager to share the credit.
‘I don’t take any personal credit for the defensive record, we all do it together,’ he stressed. ‘It starts from the front. If we do it there, we don’t need to be in trouble at the back. It made me proud how we reacted under pressure against City last Wednesday. We were struggling but everyone worked hard, kept together and made sure we had a clean sheet.’
Van Dijk looked the calmest player on the pitch in the Anfield crescendo, saying: ‘I was calm, yes, you need to enjoy it.’
And he is hoping it is City’s defenders who are again the ones under pressure as Liverpool’s famed forwards do their stuff.
‘I know that playing against Bobby (Roberto Firmino) is a nightmare because I had to do it for Southampton at the beginning of the season. When your forwards and defenders play like that, the defenders may even have an easy night.’
In contrast to Liverpool, who famously won their last European title in 2005 when they came from 3-0 down against AC Milan, City have never been to a European Cup or Champions League final.
Their former striker Uwe Rosler says Pep Guardiola’s best chance lies with his side’s supporters, who have not always embraced the Champions League, giving City the same kind of backing inside the stadium that Liverpool received last week.
‘I hope we can create a similar atmosphere to give the players energy,’ Rosler said. ‘I’ve travelled to Champions League games with City and I promise you the fans have taken to the competition.’