Jury still out on record signing Van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk this week became the most expensive defender in football history when he was bought by Liverpool for £75 million ($100.5 million).
While nobody could argue Jürgen Klopp’s defence is not in need of significant improvement, there are huge question marks over whether this investment will dramatically transform Liverpool into title contenders in the next 18 months.
First, Van Dijk’s path to record breaker is not one that screams superstar. None of Europe’s top clubs were interested in him when he joined Celtic from FC Groningen for £2.6 million ($3.48 million) in June 2013, and he was hardly the subject of a bidding war when sold to Southampton for £13 million ($17.4 million) two years later.
The directors of football, and managers, at some of Europe’s superpowers must surely still have their reservations over Van Dijk. Given the financial might of Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, it’s interesting the Dutchman has joined Liverpool.
Van Dijk marshalled the Holland defence for much of their World Cup qualifying campaign and the Dutch failed to even make the play-offs, with defensive frailties mostly to blame — the Dutch conceded twice as many goals in their group as France and three more than Sweden.
Van Dijk may be good on the ball but there still remains some doubt over his defensive abilities.
Klopp has made a bold move to shore up his backline but the suspicion is the dam will still leak under intense pressure.
Liverpool may also be forced to sell one of their best players, Phillipe Coutinho, in either this transfer window or the next, so don’t back on them ending their Premier League title drought any time soon.
11am kick-offs unless stated
Bournemouth v Everton
Bournemouth were lucky to rescue a point with a controversial injury-time equaliser against West Ham on Boxing Day.
They come up against an Everton side who are still unbeaten under Sam Allardyce, who is already beginning to hear disquiet from supporters unhappy with his defensive style of play.
The Goodison Park faithful should expect plenty more of that in the coming months.
Chelsea v Stoke City
Mark Hughes is no longer propping up the bar in the Last Chance Saloon after his Stoke team picked up four points from their last two matches against West Bromwich Albion and Huddersfield.
It is difficult to predict anything other than a defeat for his side against Chelsea, though, who have won four of their last five matches.
Huddersfield v Burnley
Burnley performed superbly to secure a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United on Boxing Day, but that monumental effort may have a knock-on effect against Huddersfield. David Wagner’s men can grab all three points.
Liverpool v Leicester City
Liverpool have yet to lose at Anfield this season and have the best home defensive record in the league, conceding just three goals this season. Expect them to dominate again. Prediction: 2-0
Newcastle v Brighton
Newcastle will see this as a must-win if they are to ease away from the relegation zone and they look set to nick a tight game. Prediction: 1-0
Watford v Swansea City
The Hornets halted a worrying slide down the table with victory against Leicester on Boxing Day. They look good value for successive victories against a demoralised Swansea, who sit bottom of the league and got thrashed 5-0 by Liverpool in their last match. Not too many Swans fans will welcome the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal as their new manager — he was sacked from Championship club Sheffield Wednesday just last week.
Manchester United v Southampton
Expect José Mourinho’s men to bounce back from a disappointing draw against Burnley. Romelu Lukaku is due a big performance and should be made captain in your Fantasy League teams this week.
Crystal Palace v Manchester City
This could be a tough game for City, who did not look quite as exciting against Newcastle on Wednesday as they had in previous matches. It is, though, almost impossible to predict a loss for them but I fancy they may have to settle for a point.
West Brom v Arsenal
The arrival of Alan Pardew has not resulted in the improvement expected and they face a relegation battle. They may be capable of grabbing a point against an inconsistent Arsenal side.
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