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Virgil van Dijk makes Man City “battle” declaration as Liverpool target title hammer blow



Virgil van Dijk makes Man City “battle” declaration as Liverpool target title hammer blow

This weekend, Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake will put their friendship aside to form the best of enemies.

During their time spent residing in the Cheshire countryside just outside of Manchester, the two Dutchmen have gotten to know one another well and have become neighbours. Yet when Liverpool and Van Dijk face off against one other at the Etihad this coming Saturday lunchtime, they will have each other in their sights.

There will be a lot on the line after a week that saw Van Dijk get harsh criticism for his performance in the Netherlands’ 4-0 humiliation by France and Ake score twice as Ronald Koeman’s team recovered by defeating Gibraltar 3-0.

“I am very close with Nathan, also in everyday life,” said Van Dijk, who was savaged by Dutch legends Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten for going missing against the French.

“We live close to each other, our families get along very well and we see each other every week. Nat has been in a good flow all year but he is also modest.

“He is playing so well at the moment and is so important for our national team and Man City. He is achieving a very consistent level and people do not realise that is the hardest thing for a footballer to do.

“I am happy for him because I see what’s going on behind the scenes and how much he’s put in for it. On Saturday, he will probably be up against Mo Salah and hopefully we can get a good result.

“When the whistle blows, it’s battle and a war on the pitch. After that, we pick up the friendship again and there are more important things in life than football.”

Virgil van Dijk makes Man City "battle" declaration as Liverpool target title hammer blow 3 Sportelo

After the international break, City will resume play eight points behind Arsenal but with a game in hand. The last five years have seen Pep Guardiola’s team battle Liverpool on a regular basis.

But Jurgen Klopp’s side are in sixth and face an eight-day spell that will define their season. Van Dijk added: “I am going to recover in the next few days and then the focus will be on City.

“We are now in two very different situations. Manchester City are fighting for the title and we hope to force Champions League football. With games against City, Chelsea and Arsenal, it will be an interesting week for us.”

The 28-year-old Ake has emerged as a vital contributor this season for both club and country. After hearing the vitriol directed at Van Dijk, the adaptable City defender felt compelled to stand up for the Netherlands captain with the same intensity he exhibits on the pitch.

Ake said: “Virgil is a leader for the Dutch national team and for Liverpool – and I mean a real leader.

“What he has achieved is massive. On top of that, he is a very big personality. Apparently, people don’t see how important Virgil is for us on and off the pitch. We couldn’t wish for a better captain and a bigger player in the national team.”

In other news,Liverpool receive major injury boost as Luis Diaz returns to training ahead of Man City trip