Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson says the loss of Virgil van Dijk is a “big blow” but he wants the Premier League champions to use his absence as an added incentive to stay in the trophy hunt.
Defensive talisman Van Dijk requires surgery after suffering knee ligament damage during Saturday’s Merseyside derby with Everton.
Manager Jurgen Klopp is reluctant to put a timescale on the Dutchman’s return but admits he faces a lengthy absence after being clattered by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the 2-2 draw.
Henderson is confident Liverpool can cope in Van Dijk’s absence, even though he has been a pivotal player since he joined the club in 2018.
“It’s a tough one. It’s a big blow for us,” Henderson told the club website. “For him personally, obviously. But for us as a team, a massive blow.
“I’m just gutted for him. It’s a difficult moment, but that’s when you need to be there for each other.”
The skipper said it was up to the team to “win as many games as we can for him”.
“That’s down to us as players to make sure that when he is back and he is fit that we’re still fighting to be successful and fighting for trophies,” said Henderson.
“You’ve got to use times like this to be stronger and to be even more together than we already are. And use it as a positive in some way.”
Klopp said supporting Van Dijk is his priority. The 29-year-old’s arrival from Southampton for a then world record £75 million fee for a defender in January 2018 has transformed Liverpool’s fortunes. The Reds won the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League for the first time in 30 years last season.
“We are there for him, he knows that and we will wait for him like a good wife is waiting when the husband is in jail and will do, meanwhile, all what we can do to make it as easy for him as possible,” Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com.
“He now will be out for a while, that’s clear. We don’t want to set any timeframe, to be honest, because each player is different and each individual is different,” he added.
“So we feel now in this moment extremely, extremely for him because most of us were in a similar situation and we know that these situations are absolutely rubbish.
“You don’t need it. You don’t need it but you have to get over it and Virgil will get over it, 100 per cent, and today is already the first day, if you want, of the recovery.”
Van Dijk’s lengthy absence has opened up the Premier League title race and the champions must look to sign a replacement in the January transfer window, former defender Jamie Carragher said.
“The big question you’re looking at now is, can Liverpool win the league without Van Dijk there? I think it blows the title race wide open,” Carragher told Sky Sports.
“I still felt at the start of this season Liverpool were the team to beat. With Van Dijk out for what looks like the whole season, it’s going to be all on for Liverpool.
“Liverpool have to go into the market in January and not just because of Van Dijk’s injury. They were weak in that area anyway. They lost (Dejan) Lovren before the start of the season… others in those positions are injury prone.”
Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy described Van Dijk as the best centre back in the world and said that Liverpool would be more vulnerable without him.
“Fabinho can drop in there if (Joel) Matip and (Joe) Gomez are struggling but beyond that, there’s not much there,” Murphy told the BBC. “They’ve got get through to January without him (Van Dijk).”
Van Dijk said in a statement here that he was hoping to make a quick return.