We wouldn’t say both teams have been struggling defensively recently, but they certainly haven’t played to the standards we’ve come to expect of them.
Liverpool have only kept one clean sheet in the last six games in the Premier League, most recently dropping points to Leicester City and West Ham United, and Manchester City (20) are only seven shy of the total goals they conceded for the whole of the previous season (27) with 13 games to go.
Very, very tight margins separate the two teams currently and fans will be looking to their star defenders to guard their goalkeepers with everything they’ve got heading into the last leg of the season.
With both defenders having quality seasons, we take a closer look at who ranks as better between City’s Aymeric Laporte and Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk…
Brought in from Athletic Club in January of last year, for a club record fee of £57 million, Laporte has been quick to learn the ropes at Manchester City and become a key player starting player in their lineup.
The big Frenchman is well known for his ability on the ball, like most Guardiola signings, with a knack for knowing where and when to distribute the ball from the back. His tactical awareness extends fluidly into his defensive efforts as well, with his ability to anticipate and read the game perfectly for winning the ball back swiftly and transitioning the ball into the forward players.
With Kompany out for the foreseeable, City will be relying on Laporte to reinforce the defence in what looks to be an incredibly difficult run of games.
TT Rating: B+
Virgil Van Dijk
Liverpool’s improved drastically defensive record from last season is testament to the quality of Virgil Van Dijk.
With only 15 goals conceded so far, the lowest in the league, Liverpool have finally seemed to secure strength and ability in both in the offensive and defensive positions.
Since making his big money move over from Southampton in 2018, Virgil Van Dijk has rapidly become of the best defenders in world football. Standing at 6 ft 4 the Dutchman is physically imposing enough to force any player off the ball and, despite his height and size, he’s no slouch either, with a very admirable turn of pace.
Indeed, Van Dijk is the model contemporary centre-back, both skilled on the ball, technically able and supremely gifted at defending.
TT Rating: A
TT Verdict: Virgil Van Dijk
Both players were quality acquisitions for their respective sides, and will surely go far in the game, but Virgil Van Dijk gets the nod on this occasion.
The big Dutchman has already manoeuvred himself into the “world class” bracket and, at 27-years old, still has the best years of his career to come.
We should mention as well that Van Dijk has provided a very strong foundation from which Liverpool can build up some of their younger prospects. Joe Gomez, for example, made an excellent transition into centre-half alongside Van Dijk as his partner and, before getting injured, was establishing a truly formidable partnership.
Don’t be surprised if Liverpool win the title this year thanks to his efforts.