Virgil van Dijk has said Liverpool are intent on providing an “unforgettable” season and that their pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple should not be taken for granted.
Liverpool’s bid to add the Champions League and Premier League to their Carabao Cup triumph has entered a crucial phase with visits to Benfica on Tuesday and Manchester City on Sunday. Before the quarter-final first leg in Lisbon, Van Dijk said the high stakes and constant pressure on his team should be enjoyed and the position Liverpool are in cherished.
The commanding defender, asked whether Liverpool had everything to gain or to lose, replied: “We don’t look at it that way. We just want to make this season hopefully an unforgettable one, for us as players, for the staff but for the whole club.
“The things that have been going on at the moment at Liverpool are something that no one should take for granted. As a group we are very stable, we have a fantastic squad, with the manager, the whole relationship with the club and the performances. We should just enjoy it: go out there and give it your all.
“If that is enough at the end of the season, then happy days. If not then we try again next year. But we shouldn’t take for granted what is happening.”
Liverpool are strong favorites to reach the Champions League semi-finals, where they will face either Bayern Munich or Villarreal, and Van Dijk, part of a defense that has conceded three goals in the past 13 matches, believes Liverpool are well-equipped for the defining stages of the season.
“We are definitely more experienced [in big moments]. We have been in the situation where Manchester City is, we have been in Champions League finals, but you can only influence the game ahead of you and that is how we see it. Tomorrow is going to be a big one of the two that is ahead of us.”
Lisbon holds happy memories for Jürgen Klopp. He was on holiday in the Portuguese capital with his family, during an intended one-year sabbatical from the game in 2015, when his agent, Marc Kosicke, called to confirm Liverpool wanted him as manager.
“It changed my life,” Klopp said of the call. “We were completely in the holiday mood. There were some rumors around that we didn’t really follow, but with two sons around they pick up pretty much everything and so I knew from them that a couple of things could happen.
“The phone rings and I didn’t pick up a lot of phone calls at that time because my family was around, but it was my agent, who is my friend, and when he said Liverpool is calling, the boys were looking at me and in that moment for them the decision was made. Ulla [Klopp’s wife] then had to put the thumb up and it was clear we would do it because it just felt right from the first second.”
Almost seven years on and Klopp remains in contention to win a second Champions League and Premier League title as Liverpool manager. His team also have the FA Cup semi-final against City on 16 April. He said: “I would love to say we were champions in 2019 as well but we weren’t and I would love to say we won the Champions League final in 2018 too. That all would have been great, but I don’t judge my time here about the trophies too much.
“I know everyone else is doing that, but it is about the way we play and the way we develop and the way the club is and the position the club is in that is much more important. At the moment it is a healthy club in a good situation and these circumstances give you an opportunity to focus on football. That is what we try, but it is really difficult.
“The stories on us are very positive at the moment and rightly so, the boys deserve it, but we all know one failure, one little wrong step, and at least one competition can be gone so we have to make sure.
“There is no problem for us. We don’t feel brave, we just feel ready for the next challenge and that is all I need, but there is no big celebration about the development of the club in the last few years, just really serious work and I am very happy about that.”
Benfica are in the quarter-finals for the first time in six years but lie third in the Primeira Liga, 12 points adrift of the leaders, Porto, after Friday’s 3-2 loss at Braga.
Klopp said: “It is a football-playing side, ready to take risks. In the Champions League they overachieve. They were not favorites in their group and they were not favorites against Ajax [in the last 16] but they put them out. They know how to get a result.”