Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are three of the superstars who have been voted into UEFA's Men's Team of the Year by fans, with Virgil van Dijk also included despite missing a chunk of 2020 through injury.

Fans had from November 30 to January 6 to cast their votes, and a host of predictable names made the cut, though Champions League winners Bayern Munich dominate.

There are five players from Bayern's treble-winning 2019-20 in the team, including Robert Lewandowski – winner of The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year award – and Thiago Alcantara, who has since joined Liverpool.

The other Reds player in the side is Van Dijk even though the Dutch centre-back has only played five Premier League games this season due to a serious knee injury.

However, earlier in the year he inspired Liverpool to their first league title since 1990.

Ronaldo was named in the side for a 15th time after helping Juventus to another Scudetto.

Messi earned his 12th inclusion despite failing to help Barcelona to LaLiga success in what was a largely difficult year for the Blaugrana and their captain.

UEFA confirmed the final selection for the women's team as well, with six players from Lyon's Women's Champions League-winning squad in the side.

 

Men's Team of the Year:

Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany); Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich and Germany), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool and Netherlands), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich and Canada); Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich/Liverpool and Spain), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium); Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil).

Women's Team of the Year:

Sarah Bouhaddi (Lyon and France); Lucy Bronze (Lyon/Manchester City and England), Kadeisha Buchanan (Lyon and Canada), Wendie Renard (Lyon and France), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea and Sweden); Kheira Hamraoui (Barcelona and France), Amandine Henry (Lyon and France), Delphine Cascarino (Lyon and France), Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir (Wolfsburg/Lyon and Iceland); Danielle van de Donk (Arsenal and Netherlands), Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg/Chelsea and Denmark).

Virgil van Dijk is on track to be fit for the European Championship later this year, according to Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer.

Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk has been out since a 2-2 draw with Everton in October, when he sustained a serious knee ligament injury following a heavy challenge from Jordan Pickford.

Van Dijk's influence has since been notable in its absence for the Reds, for whom he played an integral role in ending their 30-year wait to win the English top-flight title in 2019-20.

Last season Van Dijk attempted more passes (3,255) than any other defender in the Premier League, while only two other defenders with more than 1,500 had a better completion rate than him (89.2 per cent).

On top of that, Trent Alexander-Arnold (3,664) was the sole defender to have more touches of the ball than Van Dijk (3,624), his 239 duels won was the fifth best among rearguard players and his 191 aerial wins was bettered by only James Tarkowski (199).

Van Dijk has posted a series of videos on social media recently, including one in Dubai where former Netherlands midfielder Clarence Seedorf assisted the defender with his rehabilitation.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp recently said Van Dijk still "has a long way to go" and it is uncertain if he will play for the defending champions in the rest of this campaign.

But De Boer has optimistically claimed the 29-year-old, who captains the Dutch national team, should be contention to play in the delayed Euro 2020 tournament provided he does not suffer any setbacks.

De Boer told De Telegraaf: "If Virgil doesn't get a kick-back and things go a little faster than expected, he should be able to make it for the opening European Championship match on June 13 against Ukraine.

"He is busy with so much energy. If you see what he's doing…In my time you were only allowed to kick in the swimming pool.

"He is very important for our team, on and off the field."

Van Dijk has won 38 caps for the Netherlands since he made his debut in October 2015.

Jurgen Klopp is encouraged by videos of Virgil van Dijk training in the gym but warned the commanding Liverpool centre-back still has a long road to recovery ahead of him.

Netherlands international Van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury during the 2-2 draw against Everton in October's Merseyside derby, as a result of a robust challenge from Jordan Pickford.

Van Dijk is likely to miss the rest of the season while his status for the delayed Euro 2020 remains unclear.

This week, Reds fans would have been boosted by the sight of Van Dijk's workouts in Dubai – where Netherlands great Clarence Seedorf dropped in to work with the defender.

Klopp too is happy to see the progress being made but also ushered a cautious tone.

"Good, very good I have no problem talking about Virgil van Dijk," Klopp said when previewing Monday's Premier League clash against Van Dijk's former club Southampton. 

"It's very good but still a long way to go that's [the deal with] this kind of injury. I'm happy when I see these videos because it just shows he makes good progress but it will still take a lot of time that's how it is. 

"I'd like to say something else but these are the facts unfortunately."

This week saw two matches called off, Manchester City's clash with Everton and Tottenham's fixture with Fulham, due to coronavirus cases in the City and Fulham camps.

On Tuesday, the Premier League announced 18 positive results for COVID-19 – the highest amount since regular testing began – but there are no plans as yet for a so-called "circuit breaker".

Klopp says he trusts whatever decision is made, adding: "I'm not a specialist, you all know that, we all try to do our best to keep the competition going.

"I think it works well, we knew before that the winter will be a second wave or something however you want to call that.

"On top of that for us in society Christmas is a challenge when it's about self-isolation and stuff like this, so I'm not surprised that the numbers go up. 

"That then happens in football as well, the numbers go slightly up - it's understandable but we still all try to do everything to keep the boys as safe as possible. 

"I think the competition can go on and I think it's important as well because people want to watch it. 

"I think really we can carry on, but I'm not a specialist and I respect all the decisions made in the next few weeks."

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski were named in the attack for the 2020 FIFA FIFPro Men's World11.

The trio were all finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player award and so were unsurprisingly included in the FIFPro Men's World11.

The chief shock elsewhere in the team saw Alisson preferred in goal to Manuel Neuer.

Neuer, who captained Bayern Munich to the treble, had earlier been named The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper, beating Alisson and Jan Oblak to the award.

The Germany skipper had said: "It's one of the best years of my career, of course. We were so confident with our team and it's amazing what we have done in this year, 2020, especially in the summer when we played together in Lisbon [in the Champions League]."

In a team voted for by the players, Alisson was joined by Liverpool team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago spent the majority of the year with Bayern, who were represented by Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich as well as Lewandowski.

Sergio Ramos and Kevin De Bruyne completed the line-up.


FIFA FIFPro Men's World11: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Sergio Ramos, Alphonso Davies; Joshua Kimmich, Kevin De Bruyne, Thiago Alcantara; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski were named in the attack for the 2020 FIFA FIFPro Men's World XI.

The trio were all finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player award and so were unsurprisingly included in the World XI.

The chief shock elsewhere in the team saw Alisson preferred in goal to Manuel Neuer.

Neuer, who captained Bayern Munich to the treble, had earlier been named The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper, beating Alisson and Jan Oblak to the award.

The Germany skipper had said: "It's one of the best years of my career, of course. We were so confident with our team and it's amazing what we have done in this year, 2020, especially in the summer when we played together in Lisbon [in the Champions League]."

In a team voted for by the players, Alisson was joined by Liverpool team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago spent the majority of the year with Bayern, who were represented by Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich as well as Lewandowski.

Sergio Ramos and Kevin De Bruyne completed the line-up.


FIFA FIFPro Men's World XI: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Sergio Ramos, Alphonso Davies; Joshua Kimmich, Kevin De Bruyne, Thiago Alcantara; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Is Lionel Messi set to swap Spain for France?

Paris Saint-Germain have been among the clubs linked with Messi.

And rumours suggest PSG believe they will land the Barcelona superstar.

 

TOP STORY – PSG POISED TO SIGN MESSI?

Paris Saint-Germain are preparing to announce the signing of Lionel Messi, according to FootballTransfers.

Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season, tried to leave Barcelona at the start of 2020-21 but the six-time Ballon d'Or winner opted to remain at Camp Nou.

Now, Ligue 1 champions PSG are growing increasingly confident of luring Messi to Paris on a free transfer, having told their stores around the French capital to brace themselves for a high demand of shirt sales.

The Daily Star, however, claims Pep Guardiola's Manchester City remain optimistic of signing Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- Premier League champions Liverpool are set to offer star defender Virgil van Dijk a new blockbuster five-year contract, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Bayern Munich are in pole position to sign RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano but the Bundesliga champions are still undecided on outlaying such a significant sum amid the coronavirus pandemic, says Sport Bild. Upamecano has been heavily linked with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

- According to Corriere della Sera, Inter and Milan are the main contenders to sign Atalanta star Papu Gomez. The captain and Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini have fallen out, leading to widespread reports Gomez will leave in January. Inter are the favourites to sign Gomez as they could reportedly offer Christian Eriksen in exchange. The likes of PSG, Lazio and Napoli have also emerged as possible destinations.

Hakan Calhanoglu is set to stay at Milan, reports Calciomercato. United have been linked with a move for the soon-to-be free agent.

- Romano says Sergio Ramos is likely to continue at Madrid beyond the 2020-21 season. Los Blancos captain Ramos is nearing the end of his contract, leading to links with the likes of PSG, Juventus and United.

Trent Alexander-Arnold will be a future Liverpool captain and "the face of this club", but Jurgen Klopp did not hand him the armband at Midtjylland for his leadership skills.

Academy graduate Alexander-Arnold skippered the Reds for the first time in the 1-1 Champions League draw in midweek as regular captain Jordan Henderson started from the bench.

It was the latest landmark occasion for the England right-back, who joined Liverpool aged six and made his first-team debut in 2016.

Alexander-Arnold has since played 102 Premier League matches, scoring six goals and providing 27 assists from 174 chances created.

Since his top-flight bow, no defender in the competition has forged more opportunities for team-mates, while only Liverpool colleague Andy Robertson (33) has laid on more assists.

The 22-year-old's appearance in Denmark was his 32nd in the Champions League and this longevity gave Klopp a "logical" decision when naming his captain - a role Alexander-Arnold is set to become used to when Henderson retires.

Klopp explained: "German and English people are really similar - we have a few differences. But how you see the captaincy here in this country is completely different to Germany.

"I try to understand it, even though I spent the most time educated a different way. Being a captain, it's not so important who wears the armband, it's more important how you behave all around.

"And yes, Trent is somebody who will be in this kind of role in the future. All the younger boys in the team have a similar pathway to his pathway, 100 per cent.

"The reason [he was captain]? I didn't think he was the best leader in the line-up of the last game, he's the longest in the club. When the players come, the four captains, it's clear that it's not even a decision, it's Trent.

"When I told him, it means a lot to him - that's cool and it will be his role in the future when other people have finished their careers and stuff like this.

"He prepares himself already for this. He will be in the future the face of this club, with some others hopefully, one of the faces of this club. That's really nice.

"When I realised how much it meant to him, I was really happy. I made the decision, but the decision was a logical one because of the time he was in the club."

Alexander-Arnold's defensive colleague Virgil van Dijk would certainly be considered a leader, but Klopp says he has not asked the injured centre-back to offer advice to his deputies - including versatile midfielder Fabinho.

Liverpool have not lost any of the six league games Van Dijk has missed this season, earning more points (2.3) and conceding fewer goals (0.7) per game in his absence than with the former Southampton man involved (2.0 and 2.6 respectively).

"Virgil was the first few weeks after he got injured not in a situation to talk to people and to tell them how to play the centre-half position," the manager said.

"Now he is back here and it's all different and he's fine. He was around the last game against Wolves, which was really nice.

"Now the boys speak to each other, but what they speak about to each other, I don't know, you'll have to ask them.

"But I didn't ask Virg to explain to the other guys the centre-half position. So far that's my job and we did that as good as we could."

In fact, Klopp suggested with a smile his own vocal approach might have played a role in convincing Fabinho to join the club in 2018.

"I couldn't tell you what I said to him, because it's too long ago," he said. "But it was obviously convincing enough, so it came together.

"I remember actually - I have to picture in my mind when I met him first - a pretty shy boy.

"Maybe he thought it would be the best to be around a pretty vocal, loud manager. That might have been the reason why he joined us."

Georginio Wijnaldum says Diogo Jota is proving to be an even better acquisition than Liverpool thought he would be.

Jota has been a revelation since joining from Wolves in September for a reported £41million, scoring nine goals in 15 appearances across all competitions. 

He is already well on course to overtake his total Premier League tally of seven from last season, with five goals from as many starts in the English top flight so far this campaign. 

Jota is aiming to become just the fourth player to score in his first five home games for a club in the Premier League when his former side Wolves visit Anfield on Sunday. 

Wijnaldum is in no doubt Jota – who scored 16 goals in 67 Premier League appearances for Wolves – will revel in the occasion given his stunning start to life with Jurgen Klopp's champions. 

"It's going to be a really, really big game for him and also a game he can enjoy," the Netherlands international told Liverpool's official website. 

"I'm always happy when I play against Newcastle because that's my only other team [in the Premier League]. For him I think it's different because he played more seasons for Wolves than I played for Newcastle. 

"I'm really impressed because I already knew how good he was, but now I can see that he's even better than what we thought of him.

"Now we train with him, we play games with him, so we can really see what kind of player he is, what kind of quality player he is. 

"I think he's showed it with the start he's had at the club."

Jota has not enjoyed much time on the pitch with influential defender Virgil van Dijk after he suffered knee ligament damage in October's Merseyside derby against Everton following a forceful challenge from Jordan Pickford.

The 29-year-old underwent a successful operation, but he could ultimately miss the rest of the club season and even next year's delayed Euro 2020.

Wijnaldum, who admits he struggled to find the right words to say to his compatriot in the immediate aftermath of his injury, revealed Van Dijk is in a positive frame of mind regarding his recovery. 

"He deals well with the situation and is positive about it," he added. "We call quite often now because I know that I can.

"But in the beginning for me it was a bit like, 'Can I call him or not?' because I can understand that in the situation he was in you also want a little bit of rest and moments for yourself. 

"In the beginning it was a little bit of searching for the right way to approach him. But now it goes really well."

Jurgen Klopp says Virgil Van Dijk's recovery from serious injury is going "really well" despite the Liverpool boss revealing the defender's knee "does not look like a knee should".

Van Dijk suffered knee ligament damage in last month's Merseyside derby, sustaining the injury as a result of a forceful challenge from Jordan Pickford.

The Dutchman could ultimately miss the rest of the club season and even next year's delayed Euro 2020.

His absence will be felt by the Reds given how influential he has been since making a big-money move from Southampton – he was colossal last season as Liverpool ended a 30-year wait for a top-flight crown.

Van Dijk attempted more passes (3,255) than any other defender in the Premier League, while only two other defenders with more than 1,500 had a better completion rate than him (89.2 per cent).

On top of that, Trent Alexander-Arnold (3,664) was the sole defender to have more touches of the ball than Van Dijk (3,624), his 239 duels won were the joint-fifth-best among rearguard players and his 191 aerial wins was bettered by only James Tarkowski (199).

The 29-year-old underwent a successful operation at the end of October, with Klopp confirming he is progressing well. 

Asked if he was in touch with Van Dijk, Klopp told a media conference: "Yes, of course we are in contact. Considering the circumstances, he's doing really well.

"His knee doesn't look good, to be honest. It doesn't look like a knee should look, but it looks good for a knee with that surgery and the time he had since the surgery.

"So, yes, of course we are in contact and he's doing well, that's true."

Klopp also revealed Alexander-Arnold and Xherdan Shaqiri are making progress in their recoveries from injury, but confirmed Tuesday's Champions League clash with Ajax will come too soon for them. 

They will be joined on the sidelines by James Milner, who sustained a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend. 

While Alexander-Arnold and Shaqiri are not ready for the game at Anfield, Klopp said there is an outside chance Naby Keita could return.

"They are all getting closer to being back, but not close enough for tomorrow, I think," he said.

"With Naby we have to check there still, but with the other two, they will not be ready.

"Trent looks quite good, but nobody gave me the green light for tonight so he will not be in it [training]. He hasn't trained with the team and stuff like this.

"I saw him today on the pitch doing his rehab stuff outside, so that looks already good, but I cannot decide when this rehab stuff is finished. I take the players only in the moment when I get the green light and that didn't happen yet.

"But from my rather experienced eye from what I saw today, it will not be that long anymore with Trent."

Liverpool can secure their place in the last 16 if they avoid defeat against Ajax and they will be confirmed as Group D winners if they beat the Eredivisie side and Atalanta fail to overcome Midtjylland.

Liverpool and the Netherlands will find it impossible to replace Virgil van Dijk during his injury absence, but that does not mean either must be less competitive, according to Oranje great Clarence Seedorf.

Van Dijk suffered knee ligament damage in last month's Merseyside derby, sustaining the injury as a result of a forceful challenge from Jordan Pickford.

The Dutchman could ultimately miss the rest of the club season and even next year's delayed Euro 2020.

His absence will be most felt by the Reds given how influential he has been since making a big-money move from Southampton – he was particularly colossal last season as Liverpool ended a 30-year wait for a top-flight crown.

Van Dijk attempted more passes (3,255) than any other defender in the Premier League, while only two other defenders with more than 1,500 had a better completion rate than him (89.2 per cent).

On top of that, Trent Alexander-Arnold (3,664) was the sole defender to have more touches of the ball than Van Dijk (3,624), his 239 duels won were the joint-fifth-best among rearguard players and his 191 aerial wins was bettered by only James Tarkowski (199).

Liverpool's situation has not been helped by further injuries to other members of their defence this term and Seedorf accepts that Van Dijk is irreplaceable even in the best of circumstances, but he does not think the centre-back's competitive attitude is unattainable.

Seedorf told Stats Perform News: "I was sad for him that it happened but also, knowing him and his character, when bad things happened, you are sad for a few days then you need to look forward and start fighting your way back.

"That's what he's doing and that's what he did in the first couple of days with statements he made.

"We wish him the best recovery possible so he can get back on the pitch and continue showing his talent and leadership.

"It's the coach's problem to solve it. I don't have the insight to show how they can solve it. Liverpool, especially, have good players.

"You cannot substitute Van Dijk but you can maintain competitiveness. They have a lot of players who are at a good level, which is the same for the Dutch national team."

Antonio Conte insists Chelsea could have become a dominant force for many years had they taken his advice and signed Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk.

Former Chelsea boss Conte won the Premier League title in his maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge and guided the club to FA Cup success in 2017-18, but it was not enough to save his job.

However, the Italian coach is adamant the west London side would have achieved more during his time in charge if they landed his top targets.

"I asked for two players and we were very, very close after we won the league," Conte told The Telegraph.

"One player was Romelu Lukaku, the second player was Virgil van Dijk, and these two players were very, very close. 

"We were in contact every day and I always said that with these two players we would improve my team by 30 per cent.

"I think maybe we lost the momentum to bring Chelsea at the very top and then to stay for many years. 

"It was a pity that it didn't happen and Romelu is showing with Inter that my idea was right and also Van Dijk has shown with Liverpool that my idea was right for the club."

Lukaku joined Manchester United in July 2017 before linking up with Conte at Inter in 2019, scoring 34 goals in all competitions last season and netting seven times already this term.

The Belgium striker did not always convince at Old Trafford but Conte is adamant he would have got a lot more out of him at Chelsea.

"For sure, it would have been a different story if I was the coach of Romelu," he said. "Romelu is an incredible player and he has a lot of space for improvement.

"In one year at Inter, he had a lot of improvement because he wants to learn and I think I am a teacher. But he can continue to improve to become one of the best strikers in the world."

Thanks in large part to the goalscoring form of Lukaku, Conte guided Inter to a second-place finish in Serie A last season and to the final of the Europa League, where his side were beaten 3-2 by Sevilla.

The 51-year-old has grown under pressure after an underwhelming start to 2020-21, though, and has confirmed he is interested in a return to English football in the future.

Conte, previously linked with the United job, said: "I have this season and another year of my contract at Inter and I started a project here, and, honestly, I want to continue this project and stay for many years because we are building the bases.

"But, for sure, in my future, I want to come back to England to have another experience because I enjoyed my stay there a lot and to breathe the atmosphere in England. 

"For me, for my family, I'd like to one day come back to England because we lived an incredible experience and we want to continue to have another experience in England."

Georginio Wijnaldum is honoured to have captained the Netherlands in their 1-1 draw with Spain but said he has mixed feelings due to the absence of close friend Virgil van Dijk.

Wijnaldum took over the captain's armband for Wednesday's friendly from injured Liverpool and Netherlands team-mate Van Dijk, who is likely to be out for the rest of the season after sustaining significant damage to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last month.

Stand-in skipper Wijnaldum played 45 minutes in Amsterdam – the upcoming Nations League fixtures against Poland and Ukraine taking priority, and revealed after the match he had been in close contact with Van Dijk ahead of kick-off.

"Of course it is great to represent your country in this way," said Wijnaldum, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Wednesday. "But I would have preferred for Van Dijk to have been here. Then he would have been the captain instead.

"He makes our team stronger and is still very involved with us. I had him on the phone before the game - we talked about my birthday. But I'll call him again shortly."

Donny van de Beek scored his second international goal in as many games early in the second half to earn the Netherlands a draw against a second-string Spain side.

Sergio Canales had earlier given Spain the lead with his maiden goal for the national side and Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer was unhappy with his team's defending in the first half.

"We forgot to cover properly," he said. "I told them about that at the break and we improved on it. The game turned when De Beek and [Luuk] de Jong put their opponents under more pressure, more quickly."

De Boer is winless in four matches since replacing Ronald Koeman as coach but is hopeful that run will come to an end in Sunday's home match against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"Of course I would have liked to have won the game," he said. "Let's go and do that against Bosnia."

Owen Wijndal, 20, was the standout player for the Netherlands on what was just his second senior outing.

The left-back managed more tackles (three) than any home player while nobody turned over possession more times (seven) and intercepted the ball (twice) more often.

"He was fantastic," De Boer said. "He made a very good impression today. He has done a fantastic job and was a lot better than on his debut against Mexico."

Liverpool's defensive injury crisis may have deepened further after it was reported Joe Gomez could be facing a lengthy absence.

Gomez is said to have suffered an injury during an England training session ahead of the friendly against Republic of Ireland on Thursday.

Premier League champions Liverpool are already facing the prospect of being without Virgil van Dijk for the rest of the season due to a serious knee injury the centre-back sustained in the derby against Everton last month.

Full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to be out for around for around a month due to a calf problem he picked up in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City on Sunday.

The loss of Gomez would leave Jurgen Klopp seriously depleted at the back and hoping Fabinho, who had filled in at centre-back, will soon be able to return from a hamstring injury.

Here we use Opta data from Liverpool's top-flight matches since Van Dijk's debut in January 2018 to look at the potential impact being without Gomez and the Netherlands international could have on the Reds.


More points, defence no tighter

In the Premier League games Gomez has featured in since Van Dijk's bow, the Merseyside giants have won 43 out of 56 and lost just four.

Klopp's men have conceded an average of 0.8 goals in each game both with and without Gomez during that time.

With Gomez involved, the Reds have a favourable win percentage of 76.6 compared to 74.4 when he has played no part. They have averaged 2.5 points per game when the former Charlton man has played and 2.4 when he has not. 

Gomez and VVD a profitable pairing

From the 52 matches Gomez and Van Dijk have played in together, Liverpool's win percentage is 76.9 compared to 74.5 from the 47 in which one or both has not been present.

The Reds have averaged an impressive 2.5 points per game with the duo featuring, that number dropping to 2.4 without at least one of them.

There has been no difference in the number of goals conceded, though, with just 0.8 shipped in each game when both, one, or neither have been involved.

Frank de Boer "said bad words" upon seeing Virgil van Dijk suffer a serious injury in action for Liverpool, though he is far more relaxed about Donny van de Beek's situation at Manchester United.

Van Dijk is likely to be out for the rest of the season after sustaining significant damage to his anterior cruciate ligament in last month's Merseyside derby.

The 29-year-old centre-back was on the wrong end of a dreadful challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who remarkably avoided a red card.

Of course, Van Dijk's absence does not only impact Liverpool, it also affects the Netherlands, who could ultimately be without him for next year's delayed European Championship.

"I saw it live. I was shocked. I said some bad words," De Boer said on Tuesday ahead of a friendly against Spain on Wednesday.

"It was a shock, because he's such an important player, our captain, and he's so important in our squad. We will miss him."

De Boer was less concerned about the position Van de Beek finds himself in at United, however.

The midfielder, a pre-season arrival from Ajax, has been a bit-part player for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this term, making only four starts across all competitions – none of those have been in the Premier League, in which he has seen just 75 minutes of action.

De Boer acknowledged that the player has reason for frustration but urged patience.

When asked if he wanted to give the 23-year-old a sympathetic hug, De Boer said: "I can't hug him right now of course! I try to give him as much confidence as possible, which I showed by starting him against Italy.

"I think he did well in the games he played, I saw him a few times at United. He's doing well, but they have a great midfield with [Bruno] Fernandes, [Paul] Pogba, Fred, [Scott] McTominay and [Nemanja] Matic.

"It's difficult, but I'm sure he will play his minutes. I can understand he wants to feature more frequently, but on the other hand, it's always normal that you have to adapt when you go to a new league.

"Let's hope he will get his playing time. I am happy that he's well-rested. We can use him here."

After the international break, Van de Beek will likely target Pogba's position in the United team.

The Frenchman has created just two goalscoring chances in the Premier League this term, only one more than Van de Beek despite playing 298 more minutes than him.

Pogba also has no goals in the top flight – Van de Beek netted his first for the club against Crystal Palace.

Ederson has rejected the criticism aimed at Jordan Pickford after the Everton goalkeeper's rash challenge on Virgil van Dijk left the Liverpool defender with a serious knee injury. 

England's number one clattered into the Dutchman in the early stages of last month's Merseyside derby, with Van Dijk subsequently undergoing surgery as he faces up to a prolonged spell on the sidelines. 

Pickford – who was left out by Carlo Ancelotti for the Toffees' loss to Newcastle United last time out – has come under fire from many quarters, but Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson has sympathy for the 26-year-old. 

Speaking ahead of City's crunch clash with Premier League champions Liverpool on Sunday, Ederson said: "First and foremost, I don't think any player steps on the pitch looking to injure an opponent. Sometimes you have a fraction of a second to make a decision.

"Unfortunately, Jordan Pickford had that clash with Van Dijk and it ended up resulting in a serious injury. That's part of football; sometimes it happens.  

"It could happen to any of us. I don't think it was Pickford's intention to injure Van Dijk and in the same way I don't think it was [Sadio] Mane's intention to do that when he clashed with me in our game a few years ago. 

"You have such a short time to make a decision and it could happen to any of us." 

Van Dijk's absence is undoubtedly a boost for City's prospects at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, with Fabinho also set to miss out for the visitors. 

But Brazil international Ederson knows Jurgen Klopp's side will still carry a threat as City seek a fourth consecutive home league win over the Reds for the first time since 1937. 

"Their best centre-back, Van Dijk, is out," he said. "Fabinho has been playing really well this season and he's out too. But we mustn't forget that Liverpool still have great players. 

"Their absences aren't going to be a big disadvantage for them or a big advantage for us. We don't focus on the players that aren't going to play, or a specific absence, we focus on Liverpool as a whole team."

The match will see Ederson come up against a familiar face, with compatriot Alisson in between the posts at the other end. Despite competing for a starting spot for their country, the two are friends. 

“I have a good friendship with Alisson. He is an incredible guy," he said. "Our rivalry is only on the pitch, off the pitch that doesn't exist. We are good friends. 

"I hope we both can have a good game on Sunday. Our style is very similar. Perhaps I play more with my feet, but so does he. 

"Liverpool have more or less the same style of play and he is an incredible goalkeeper." 

Alisson faces a tough task, with Liverpool having failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their past 10 away league games against City, conceding 26 goals in that run. 

City, who are looking to win back-to-back top-flight games for the first time this season, have been victorious in nine of the their past 10 Premier League games against the team who were reigning champions.

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