Saturday 24 August 2019

Virgil van Dijk plans to halt Harry Kane for second time in a week

Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk during the press conference at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimaraes ahead of Thursday night's UEFA Nations League clash with England. Photo: Getty Images
Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk during the press conference at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimaraes ahead of Thursday night's UEFA Nations League clash with England. Photo: Getty Images

Simon Peach

Virgil Van Dijk feels fresh, hungry and hangover-free after Liverpool's Champions League win, with the defender determined to halt Harry Kane once again when Holland do battle with England in the Nations League.

The 27-year-old earned plaudits aplenty during an excellent campaign that culminated in Jurgen Klopp's Reds being crowned champions of Europe with a 2-0 victory against Tottenham on Saturday evening.

Van Dijk was named man of the match in Madrid and was drinking a beer in a post-match press conference that was followed by wild celebrations in Spain and back in Liverpool.

The defender said with a smile that he is "completely sober" and, just five days after winning the Champions League, is ready to help Holland beat England in Thursday's Nations League semi-final in Guimaraes.

"Well, I feel fine now," Van Dijk said.

"Obviously, I think if you ask anyone who is going to play tomorrow, both teams, they'll say they're not 100 per cent.

"Everyone has a full season behind them. But there is a chance to play to win a trophy here in this case.

"For us as a group, we want to go for it and give everything we've got. It's going to be tough, but we're going for it and full of confidence as well.

England's Harry Kane in training session at St George's Park, Burton. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
England's Harry Kane in training session at St George's Park, Burton. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

"It's easier than last year (when Liverpool lost the Champions League final), certainly.

"In spirit and physically it was tougher. Everything is fine now and mentally speaking I'm in a better place now. We're ready.

"I think all of us will feel heavy legs. That's absolutely no excuse. We'll all be ready for the match."

Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum are the only Champions League finalists in the Dutch squad, whereas England had seven players involved at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Three Lions skipper Kane was among four of those in the defeated Spurs squad, with the striker getting precious little change out of Van Dijk on his first appearance since sustaining an ankle injury 53 days earlier.

"Harry Kane is a fantastic striker," Van Dijk said.

"I think one of the best in England, and I think he's definitely the best striker England have got for the national team.

"But I know also that, if you're not 100 per cent fit, then it's going to be in your head if you get a bit of a knock or you pass, and you get a little bit of pain. It's going to be in your head.

"Obviously I expected him to play the final, but I know he was not going to be 100 per cent.

"I don't know if he's playing tomorrow, but if he will we'll see how we're going to manage them.

"I remember last year when I came back feeling bad, very disappointed for quite a while.

"It's not easy to come back from it but I think if they play, they'll definitely want to show themselves and try and win the game. We'll see if they will play."

Playing against familiar faces brings an "added dimension" to the occasion for Van Dijk, whose fine form has prevented any opponent completing a dribble past him in his last 64 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool.

"I've read that as well, of course," he said of the statistic that went viral.

"You can't really miss it - everyone is talking about. But it's not something I'm focusing on. I'm not going into games thinking 'I don't want to get dribbled past'.

"I just try to defend for the team, do everything for the team and try not to concede and not to lose either."

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