London - Liverpool's successful pursuit of Virgil van Dijk
will end the year on a high note for Jurgen Klopp's club as they face Leicester
in the Premier League on Saturday.
The $100 million fee - a world record for a defender - which
Liverpool agreed with Southampton for the Dutch international this week
addresses some of their shortcomings at the back.
Even before Van Dijk's capture, Klopp's side were well on
course for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification thanks to their
fearsome forward line.
A 5-0 Boxing Day thrashing of a woeful Swansea side took
Liverpool's goal total to 12 in three games, and extended their unbeaten league
run to 11 matches.
If only their defence had not fallen apart in a 3-3 draw at
Arsenal four days earlier, Liverpool might be in an even more comfortable
Their attack, though, is ruthless at present.
Roberto Firmino has scored four in Liverpool's last three
matches, Philippe Coutinho three and Mohamed Salah two.
Coutinho's sublime finish for the opening goal against
Swansea gave Barcelona yet another reason to try to buy him in January.
Liverpool managed to fend off three bids during July and
August, but it increasingly appears as if the best they can hope for now is to
hang on to him until the end of this season.
For now, though, Klopp can make full use of those attacking
options, and may well be tempted to rotate them as Liverpool face up to three
games in seven days, with the Leicester match followed by a league trip to
Burnley on Monday and an FA Cup home tie against Everton the following Friday.
Sadio Mane, an unused substitute against Swansea, is the
likeliest candidate to come in, although Dominic Solanke is another option,
while Daniel Sturridge is also set to be available after being absent on Boxing
Day because of illness.
Klopp had to readjust his midfield against Swansea, with
captain Jordan Henderson out until February because of a hamstring injury.
That gave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain only his sixth Premier
League start for the club, and he enhanced his chances of a seventh by scoring
his third goal of the season.
Liverpool's manager does still not seem entirely sure who
his first-choice defenders are, although Joel Matip was selected ahead of Dejan
Lovren on Boxing Day, making his first appearance after four weeks out with a
Academy graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold, selected in place
of Joe Gomez at right-back, responded by scoring at Anfield for the first time,
and is hoping to keep his place for the busy run of fixtures ahead, especially
with van Dijk due to join his club on New Year's Day.
Alexander-Arnold said: "It's huge because there are two
competitions, three games in quick succession, and we need to get the results
and the points on board and that's what we'll look to do.
"We know it's important to reflect on the Swansea game,
pick up some points to take forward for us, but also leave it behind us because
there are plenty more games to come."
Leicester manager Claude Puel is delighted his side will not
have to face Van Dijk, who played for him at Southampton, but he is backing the
Dutchman to become a huge success at Anfield.
"I am happy for him and happy he can't play against us,
which is a good thing," Puel said.
"It is fantastic possibility for Liverpool. He can play
in different good teams and it is a good reward for him.
"I don't know if it is the right price but for me he is
a fantastic player, a fantastic defender.
"He is one of the best defenders in the world and he
has all the qualities to become the best."