Liverpool face their toughest test of the new Premier League campaign when they visit Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea on Saturday.
The Reds are the only side to have won every of their six opening fixtures of the season, and getting a win against Maurizio Sarri’s men will go a long way as far as proving their title credentials goes.
However, manager Jurgen Klopp is faced with a huge decision to take, with star defender Virgil van Dijk not fully fit for the clash.
“With Virgil we have to wait. He hasn’t trained so far with the team but I can’t say any more about that”, the German revealed during Friday’s pre-match press conference, as reported by Liverpool Echo.
“Virgil is a world-class player, there’s no doubt about that. And if you miss a world class player, it’s always not cool. If Virgil is fit and can play, then he will play. But if not, then obviously we have options and that’s really good.
“We could play football before Virgil van Dijk and we can play football without Virgil van Dijk, thank God. But I prefer he is fit and available and I can make decisions over whether he needs a rest in one of the other games.”
While a decision on his involvement won’t be taken until Saturday morning, that the Dutch defender travelled with the rest of squad to west London hints at the possibility of him getting a taste of weekend’s action.
However, the temptation to play him on Saturday is definitely high given his quality and the solidity he brings to the Liverpool defence.
Klopp would be taking a huge risk featuring Van Dijk as he is clearly not fully fit, and aggravating his injury won’t only set back his return to full fitness, it will also deal a massive blow on Liverpool’s campaign.
The £75million centre-back has arguably been one of the club’s best performers of the campaign, and while his presence will come as a very much welcome boost against Chelsea, there is no sense sacrificing his fitness for one game and eventually put him at the risk of missing many more.
Losing Van Dijk to a relapse will effectively deal a huge blow on Liverpool’s chances of mounting strong challenges across every competition this term, and it would be wise of Klopp not to risk the fitness of his key man against Chelsea.
It could end up becoming the difference between one defeat (or a draw) – the worst which could happen if he doesn’t feature at Stamford Bridge – and many defeats.