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Virgil van Dijk backs Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez to solve injury crisis

Virgil van Dijk has lavished praise upon centre-half partner Ibrahima Konate, insisting he has every quality needed to thrive in the modern game.

Konate produced an outstanding performance as Liverpool underlined their Premier League title credentials in drawing 1-1 with fellow contenders Arsenal on Saturday.

But while that showing was hailed in some quarters as the Frenchman’s best for the Reds so far, Van Dijk is convinced his team-mate can keep improving.

He said: “He’s still growing. He’s an outstanding defender. He has everything that a modern-day footballer needs to be at the absolute top of centre-backs.

“There’s a lot of demands from us. We play with the ball, keep a high line, lots of space to defend in behind. Needs pace and heading as well. He’s doing it well.

“It’s about getting used to playing every three days, looking after your body, managing games and training sessions, when to do certain things.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 8, 2023: Liverpool players during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Europa League Group E match between Toulouse FC and Liverpool FC. Dominik Szoboszlai, Joël Matip, Cody Gakpo, Joe Gomez, captain Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konaté. (Photo by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

Van Dijk also revealed that he is making full use of his experience to help ensure Konate takes the next step.

He added: “I speak a lot with him about certain things because it’s my duty to share experiences with him. He’s still learning and he can be even better than he is. Same goes with Jarell.

“I’ve been in the game for quite a while now and been quite successful. I try to give that to the young players.

“These players at this age are even better than I was. But obviously it’s about doing it in the long run. I’m pleased for how he is now but he can be even better, he can progress.

“It’s nice to see the progression and development, it’s nice to see that they listen. Let’s see what it brings.”

Liverpool were hit with yet another defensive injury blow on Saturday as Kostas Tsimikas was forced off with a suspected broken collarbone.

But Van Dijk has full faith in Joe Gomez to step in at left-back, as he did impressively against the Gunners.

He continued: “Unfortunately we have [Kostas] injured and we have to deal with the backlash. It’s not a great situation.

“[Gomez] has been doing it already. He’s doing it very well. When you’re not used to playing every three days, you have to manage yourself well.

“I have full confidence in Joey and his quality. We could adapt as well and go a different way in the way we play. We have to find a solution.

“We also have young players behind as well to step up.”