Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk has been handed an additional one-match ban and a £100,000 fine after admitting he acted in an improper manner following his red card at Newcastle.

The Netherlands international was dismissed for a foul on Alexander Isak in the first half of Liverpool’s 2-1 victory at St James’ Park on August 27, but initially refused to leave the pitch – and then remonstrated with referee John Brooks.

An automatic one-match ban saw the centre-back suspended for the 3-0 win over Aston Villa before the international break, but he will now also serve an additional suspension and so miss the trip to Wolves on September 16.

A statement from the FA read: “Virgil van Dijk has been suspended for one match and fined £100,000 for breaching FA Rule E3.1 during Liverpool’s Premier League fixture against Newcastle on Sunday August 27.

“The defender admitted that he acted in an improper manner and used abusive and insulting words towards a match official after being sent off in the 29th minute, and the sanctions were subsequently imposed by an independent regulatory commission.”

Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool must be “lucky” with the availability of their centre-backs this season as he hinted he was unlikely to add to his options before the transfer deadline.

Ibrahima Konate is a doubt for Sunday afternoon’s trip to Newcastle because of a muscular problem and Joe Gomez or Joel Matip could instead partner Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of the Reds’ defence.

Nat Phillips is another alternative but Klopp is well aware that a shortage of options and a spate of injuries could spell trouble as he had to get creative with his backline during the 2020-2021 season.

A total of 20 different combinations were used during the turbulent campaign and Klopp is keeping everything crossed that he does not have to deal with a defensive crisis in the forthcoming months.

“In an ideal world, we have six, seven, eight centre-halves and cover for absolutely everything,” the Liverpool manager said. “No, we need to be lucky with injuries, there is no doubt about that.

“I have no doubt about the quality of the boys we have. We have (academy player) Jarell Quansah, a super-talented player, available as well.

“In this moment we are covered but it is not dreamland where you can be prepared for absolutely each situation. We had to learn that in the past as well a couple of times.

“We will try to do our absolute best to have a squad for next week, a squad for us where we can react on pretty much everything. Is that possible? We will see.”

Liverpool were the only side to do the double over a Newcastle side that lost just five times in the Premier League and qualified for the Champions League last season.

Despite their rapid improvement under Eddie Howe, Newcastle are on a 13-match winless sequence against Liverpool stretching back to December 2015 – although Klopp is wary of what they will face this weekend.

He feels two of their signings in particular this summer were among the shrewdest of any team.

“Newcastle are an incredibly strong team, qualified for the Champions League, fully deserved,” Klopp said. “Super development under Eddie Howe, I have to say. Eddie is a super coach, a super manager.

“Smart business. I don’t want to miss anybody but probably the two standouts in this window: (Sandro) Tonali and (Harvey) Barnes. Really good business.

“The speed they have is really good. Newcastle, since last year at least, they don’t concede a lot but score. So that’s a proper game.”

While Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones are missing once again, Klopp will be able to call upon fellow midfielder Alexis Mac Allister after his red card in the 3-1 win over Bournemouth was overturned.

Mac Allister – signed from Brighton in the summer for £35million – was shown a straight red by referee Thomas Bramall after catching Bournemouth midfielder Ryan Christie on the foot at Anfield last weekend.

“When I saw the pictures back I was pretty sure that it’s not a red card but that doesn’t mean then immediately that our appeal will be successful,” Klopp added.

“You don’t have that a lot of times, that pretty much everybody agrees this is not a red card and should not be a red card. Harsh tackles should always be punished, I absolutely support that 100 per cent.

“But it was not a harsh tackle, it was just a touch in the situation. It was a massive relief when I heard that it is overturned. Very good news.”

New Celtic signing Gustaf Lagerbielke is excited to be following in the footsteps of his “inspiration” Virgil van Dijk.

The centre-back signed for Celtic on Wednesday after moving from Swedish league leaders Elfsborg.

The 23-year-old was brought in following the departure of fellow Swede Carl Starfelt to Celta Vigo and has many more compatriots to choose from if he wants to find more encouragement that he can be a success in Glasgow, including the likes of Henrik Larsson and Johan Mjallby.

Lagerbielke admitted the Swedish connection was a factor in moving to Celtic, given his countrymen adapted so well to life in Scotland.

But it was another former Celtic player who Lagerbielke looked up to as an aspiring defender.

“Virgil van Dijk, who has been here before, is a huge inspiration,” he said in his first media conference at Celtic Park.

“Also how he is outside of the pitch, he is very professional and keen on getting better all the time. And on the pitch of course with his leadership, duelling and passing, he is a really good player.

“He was a great player for Celtic and did a lot of good things, so he is an inspiration.”

Lagerbielke joins Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stephen Welsh and summer signing Maik Nawrocki in the ranks of Brendan Rodgers’ central defenders.

When asked to tell Celtic fans what kind of player he is, he said: “I would describe myself as a player who loves to win, who does everything for the team. I can handle both short and long-range passes, good in duelling and in the air and hopefully scores a few goals.”

Lagerbielke won his first Sweden cap earlier this year and is determined to do everything he can to be a success in his career.

“I put a lot of time and effort into optimising how I am on the pitch – sleep, nutrition and everything around that,” he said.

“If you are a footballer and you feel well in your life then you perform better on the pitch.

“It’s the whole package now, you just try to get it all as good as possible to perform on the pitch.

“In my former teams I have taken a lot of responsibility myself to develop and invest in my career.”

Virgil van Dijk has been appointed as Liverpool captain following the departure of Jordan Henderson, the Premier League club have announced.

The 32-year-old, who arrived at Anfield from Southampton in 2018 and has made 222 appearances, also performs the role internationally for the Netherlands.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been confirmed as vice-captain after James Milner left to join Brighton earlier in the summer.

Henderson and Milner have departed as part of an overhaul of the team’s midfield as Jurgen Klopp looks to rebuild following last season’s disappointing fifth-place finish in the Premier League.

It meant the club failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2016.

“It has been a very disappointing year last year,” Van Dijk told the club website. “It was actually not a bad run-in. Obviously in the end we didn’t achieve anything we hoped to achieve and that was very disappointing.”

Of the players who were part of Klopp’s title-winning squad in 2020, Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino have also left, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been released following an injury-hit Reds career.

In their place, Brighton’s World Cup-winning midfielder Alexis Mac Allister has been signed along with Hungary international Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Leipzig.

“Obviously it has been quite an interesting summer with players obviously leaving and new players coming in, this little transition that is going on,” added Van Dijk.

“We also have to be a bit patient but we want to be there and we want to show what we’re capable of because we have a fantastic group of players, staff, fans, stadium, we shouldn’t even discuss that.”

Mohamed Salah’s 100th goal at Anfield – among other achievements – grabbed the headlines but Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk believes goalkeeper Alisson Becker is more than worthy of similar recognition.

Salah’s solitary strike secured a sixth successive Premier League victory to maintain the Reds’ unlikely push for the Champions League but the 1-0 win was only possible because Alisson brought up a century of clean sheets in the game.

In a disappointing season Alisson has been the club’s most consistent player, even taking into account Salah reaching 30 goals for the campaign for the fourth time in six years.

Van Dijk, who has not been immune from the struggles which have affected the whole side, recognises that.

“He’s an example for a lot of players, especially goalkeepers. I’m very glad that he’s my goalkeeper and we have been very successful,” said the Netherlands captain.

“Obviously on the pitch his qualities are there for everyone to see – his contribution, the saves, the leadership, that’s all very important – but away from the pitch is just as important, the qualities he has.

“He is a big, big leader in the group and someone a lot of players look up to.

“Obviously this (100 clean sheets) is for him a big moment and hopefully there are many more to come.”

Liverpool, who are in talks with former Wolfsburg sporting director Jorg Schmadtke to replace the departing Julian Ward, recorded back-to-back Premier League clean sheets for the first time in two months – when they had three in a row – and only the fifth occasion in the whole campaign.

Much of that poor record has been down to how the team defends and not Alisson’s performances, which have been generally better than the rest of the squad overall.

Van Dijk accepts those failings but believes they have finally started to iron out their issues.

“He is the one who has the highest risk factor in the team as well, if he makes a mistake then it’s a goal,” he added.

“It’s the whole doing it together type of feeling that we feel we have. That’s the basis.

“He would probably say that without the boys in front of him and the midfielders and strikers doing their work, this (100 clean sheets) would not be possible. Everyone is part of it, but he should definitely be proud of it.

“The last couple of games, the commitment we have shown and the reaction when we lost the ball is very important.

“It’s important to get the ball back, win challenges, and while there’s still room for improvement, winning six games in a row is something that has been unheard of this season.

“But let’s just keep going and enjoy the moment and take it into next season.”

Van Dijk could not, however, fail to recognise the enduring excellence of Salah, who has drawn level with Steven Gerrard as the club’s joint-fifth all-time goalscorer on 186.

It is the Egypt international’s relentlessness which sets him apart from most of his contemporaries, having been available for a remarkable 97 per cent of all Premier League and Champions League matches since he joined the club in 2017.

“He is doing it consistently, even when we are struggling he has still found a way to be important for the team,” said the Dutchman.

“Being consistent every three or four days, obviously you can have games where you don’t score but you can reach that level, and also staying fit that’s the most difficult thing to do.

“People don’t really speak about those kind of things too much, but maybe we should. On top of that, his numbers speak for themselves. In the world we live in nowadays, maybe the respect comes after he has stopped playing.

“But I don’t think he cares about that anyway. He just wants to keep doing what he’s doing and be important for the club. That’s the main thing.”

Brentford’s bid for European football appears to be fading after just two wins in the last nine matches.

“You need to perform almost perfectly against these top-six sides,” said head coach Thomas Frank.

“We are definitely getting closer, we’ve shown that in the performances and the wins we’ve had so far this season, but you need to be almost perfect to get a point or to win and, unfortunately, we were not quite perfect, but we were close.”

Mohamed Salah's goalscoring feats are underappreciated by those outside Liverpool, believes his Reds team-mate Virgil van Dijk.

Salah scored his 183rd goal for Liverpool to clinch a 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday, after Neco Williams and Morgan Gibbs-White struck to cancel out Diogo Jota's brace.

The Egyptian's close-range finish saw him match Robbie Fowler's goal tally for Liverpool in 71 fewer appearances, taking him to joint-sixth in the club's all-time scoring charts.

Salah has scored 27 goals across all competitions during an underwhelming season for Liverpool, and he now has Steven Gerrard's total of 186 goals for the Reds in his sights.

Asked about Salah's goalscoring exploits after Saturday's win, Van Dijk suggested the forward is underrated by those not of a Red persuasion. 

"Most of the players here have contributed to winning big trophies. Mo will definitely be seen as a legend. He's such an important player," Van Dijk told reporters.

"At a later stage, I think the things he's done will be appreciated a lot more by the outside world.

"For us, we appreciate everything he does day in, day out. We see all the hard work that he puts in. He just has to keep it going."

Having also scored in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal before grabbing a brace in a 6-1 thrashing of Leeds United, Salah has now netted in three successive Premier League games for the first time since October 2021 (during a run of seven).

Meanwhile, only Ollie Watkins (14) and Erling Haaland (13) have bettered his return of 12 Premier League goal involvements since the turn of the year.

Liverpool remain nine points adrift of the top four despite winning back-to-back games, and Van Dijk says the team's below-par campaign has been an eye-opener.

"We are very privileged. We're going out there, performing for one of the biggest clubs in the world," he said. "This season, at times, you have to remind yourself that we're really blessed.

"Everyone wants to win, no one wants to make mistakes and lose. We have been very successful over the years.

"We just need to find that joy. I'm certainly happy and buzzing to be out there, trying to get good results to put a run together."

Virgil van Dijk may have struggled for Liverpool this season but Jamie Carragher says no centre-back in the Premier League has ever had a greater impact on their team.

Carragher jumped to the defence of the Reds centre-back on Twitter, suggesting Van Dijk was far better than former Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic and had performed on the same level as Kevin De Bruyne in recent years.

That came after Liverpool's entertaining 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Anfield on Sunday, when Jurgen Klopp's defence left much to be desired as Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus fired in the first half.

Van Dijk's performances have repeatedly been questioned this season, with Carragher delivering a scathing assessment of the defender after Liverpool's 5-2 Champions League home thrashing by Real Madrid in February.

While former Reds captain Carragher acknowledged the disappointing nature of the Netherlands international's season, he believes no centre-back comes close to Van Dijk in the Premier League era.

Responding to another tweet criticising Van Dijk's form, Carragher wrote: "VVD [Van Dijk] is far better than Vidic, who was a top CB [centre-back], but have you forgot [Vidic's] performances against [Liverpool's Fernando] Torres?

"Rio [Ferdinand] and JT [John Terry] had poor seasons in their career like all players, VVD is having one now. No CB in the PL era has ever had VVD's impact on a team."

Seemingly irked by football followers questioning Van Dijk, Carragher doubled down on his defence of the 31-year-old, likening his impact on the Premier League to City's De Bruyne.

"Never mind the best CB in the league, he's been the best player in the league along with KDB [De Bruyne] for four years before this one," Carragher added.

"We have never spoken about other CBs being the best player before, that shows the level he was at."

When questioned on the topic of impact, with Vidic's five Premier League titles, one Champions League and three EFL Cups at Manchester United put to him, Carragher insisted Van Dijk still reigns supreme.

"If you or anyone thinks Vidic is better than VVD you're not watching the same game! He's miles better!!"

Bukayo Saka returned to the Arsenal team to face Liverpool at Anfield, while Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were handed starts for the hosts.

Saka dropped to the bench for a 4-1 hammering of Leeds United last weekend due to illness, but the England winger replaced Leandro Trossard in the Premier League leaders' starting line-up on Sunday.

That was the only change made by manager Mikel Arteta as the Gunners looked to restore their advantage over second-placed Manchester City to eight points.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp recalled centre-back Van Dijk and leading scorer Salah to his team, along with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Cody Gakpo.

Van Dijk was absent for a goalless draw with Chelsea in midweek, while Salah, Robertson, Gakpo and Alexander-Arnold started on the bench at Stamford Bridge.

Thiago Alcantara was included among the substitutes for Sunday's game after two months on the sidelines with a hip injury.

Virgil van Dijk has been ruled out of Liverpool's Premier League trip to Chelsea through illness, with Mohamed Salah surprisingly named on the bench as Jurgen Klopp makes six changes to his side.

Van Dijk reportedly missed training after feeling unwell ahead of Tuesday's game at Stamford Bridge, where Liverpool are looking to end a run of three successive defeats either side of the international break.

The defender previously missed seven games with a hamstring injury in January and February, with the Reds suffering demoralising defeats at Brighton and Hove Albion and Wolves in his absence.

Van Dijk is not the only notable absentee from Klopp's starting lineup in west London, with Salah joining Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson in dropping to the bench.

Joe Gomez and Konstantinos Tsimikas replace the full-back pair, while Curtis Jones, Joel Matip, Darwin Nunez and Roberto Firmino have been brought in, with Harvey Elliott and Cody Gakpo also replaced. 

Chelsea's interim head coach Bruno Saltor, meanwhile, has made two changes to the side that began Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa – a result that led to Graham Potter's dismissal.

N'Golo Kante will captain Chelsea on his first Premier League start since last August, with Wesley Fofana the second player introduced by former Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Bruno.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mykhailo Mudryk are both named on the bench after starting the defeat against Villa, a result that left Chelsea mired inside the Premier League's bottom half.

Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk remains a "world-class player" who is as capable as anyone of keeping Manchester City striker Erling Haaland quiet.

That is according to former Reds striker Robbie Keane, who also told Stats Perform talk of Jurgen Klopp departing Anfield is "absolutely ludicrous".

Van Dijk's form for club and country has been the subject of much debate, with Netherlands greats Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit heavily criticising the defender this week.

On the back of the Netherlands' 4-0 loss to France, Van Basten accused Van Dijk of "making noise but not saying anything" and creating chaos in the side.

Fellow former Netherlands international Gullit, speaking alongside Van Basten in his punditry role with Ziggo Sport, said Van Dijk "thinks he is better than the rest".

Experienced defender Van Dijk faces arguably the toughest challenge in world football this weekend when Liverpool travel to City on their return to Premier League action.

Haaland, who is expected to be fit despite pulling out of Norway's squad, has scored 42 goals at club level this season – 11 more than any player across Europe's major leagues.

But Keane believes Van Dijk is more than able to keep the prolific striker quiet in Saturday's contest at the Etihad Stadium.

"The number of goals Haaland has scored is incredible for such a young player," Keane said. "He's certainly suited to this league and he's powerfully strong.

"When you're playing a team like Man City, who create the chances they do, you know as a striker you've always got a chance to score goals.

"But then you have someone like Van Dijk, who is a world-class player. If there's anybody that can keep [Haaland] quiet, it's certainly him."

 

Liverpool have won just one of their past 13 Premier League away games against City, with that solitary victory coming in November 2015 when winning 4-1.

The Reds were beaten by Bournemouth last time out in the league and will finish the campaign trophyless following Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid.

Klopp has been asked numerous times about his future in what has been a poor campaign for Liverpool, but Keane does not expect him to go anywhere at the end of the season.

"If I'm being totally honest, I think it's absolutely ridiculous people are even questioning Jurgen Klopp, if he should leave this club or not, absolutely no way," he said. 

"The only person I think should get to decide that is Jurgen Klopp after what he's done for this football club. It's not going to happen. No way. The fans love him. 

"I know the owners love him being here, so it would be absolutely ludicrous for people to suggest that he would leave."

Liverpool have taken 12 points from 13 Premier League away games this season, compared to 30 at home – the biggest difference (18 points) between any side in the division.

They are running out of time to climb into the top four, but Keane is confident Klopp is the right man to rebuild the squad regardless of what happens over the next two months.

"The team, like any other team, goes through bad spells and that seems to be happening this year," added Keane, who spent one season with Liverpool in 2008-09.

"Jurgen Klopp, he's very good at rebuilding. So I'm sure he'd be trying to get into the top four the season with 10 games still to go. 

"He won't be resting. We know what he's like, the character he is. We hope to get into the top four and then I'm sure he already has one eye on next year and ready to go again."

Virgil van Dijk accepts he has not been performing at his best level but says footballers "are not robots" after being strongly criticised by Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit.

The Liverpool defender's captaincy credentials were questioned by Van Basten in particular following Friday's 4-0 Euro 2024 qualifying defeat to France.

Dutch great Van Basten accused Van Dijk of "making noise but not saying anything" and creating chaos that leads to misunderstandings" in the side.

Fellow former Netherlands international Gullit, speaking alongside Van Basten in his punditry role with Ziggo Sport, said Van Dijk "thinks he is better than the rest".

While Van Dijk is open to opinions, he does not believe the criticism is entirely justified.

"It is clear that we played badly. I am one of the experienced guys, so it is completely justified," he said following Monday's 3-0 win over Gibraltar.

"Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion these days, that's the case. Did I set the bar unrealistically high? I was never perfect.

"But we've had a lot of success with the team. Football players [Van Basten and Gullit] know that better than anyone, have high peaks and deep valleys.

"It's quite normal that you can't always play consistently. That you have a phase as a club or player where you are looking for your level. People should not forget that. 

"It is normal that people make mistakes; it is part of football and that it is very human."

Van Dijk has also been far from his best in a Liverpool shirt this season, but he hopes to return to top form soon.

"You know better than anyone when you are doing something right or not," the 56-cap defender said. "These are difficult times at my club, with lots of ups and downs.

"I am very positive about the future and I try to play my best game ever in every game. We are not robots. Let's not forget that. Maybe people sometimes forget that."

Ronald Koeman unsurprisingly said he expected more from his Netherlands team after they were beaten 4-0 by France in his first game back as head coach.

Koeman replaced Louis van Gaal to begin his second stint as Oranje boss, and will have been as surprised as anyone to see his team go 2-0 down after just eight minutes in the Stade de France, and 3-0 down after 21 minutes.

Speaking to NOS Sport after the chastening defeat in their Euro 2024 qualifying opener, Koeman admitted he had not expected such a gulf, though his team had finished with 59 per cent possession and just one fewer shot than the hosts (12-11).

"I did not take into account that the difference would be so great," he said. "I expected more from everyone. The team performance was below average.

"We lost the ball 20 metres from our own goal. That is a place where you should never lose the ball. And then France is, of course, a very good team that is lurking and immediately benefits."

Antoine Griezmann, Dayot Upamecano and new France captain Kylian Mbappe gave Les Bleus an early cushion, before Mbappe struck again two minutes from time after intercepting a pass from Memphis Depay, who later had a penalty saved by Mike Maignan.

"Memphis lost the ball, but Mbappe of course finishes it off great afterwards. So it was not just us. It was also the class of France," Koeman conceded.

The Netherlands were without some key players including Matthijs de Ligt, Cody Gakpo and Sven Botman with viral infections, but Koeman was in no mood for excuses.

"Of course the preparation has not been ideal. That has left its mark," he said. "But there have been just too many moments today when we failed.

"We now know where we stand and have learned from this. It can therefore also turn out positively. We are going to learn and improve, including us as technical staff."

Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk added: "We didn't get there, lost the duels and lost the ball too often. The second goal was a set piece, but the other goals came because we handed them the ball. France has so much quality, they immediately punish that.

"We will analyse the defeat and take a good look at what we can do better, but it is clear we are very disappointed."

The Netherlands host Gibraltar in their second Group B game on Monday.

Virgil van Dijk is relishing the challenge presented by Kylian Mbappe as the Netherlands tackle France in a Euro 2024 qualifier.

The Oranje begin their qualification campaign under Ronald Koeman at the Stade de France in Paris, where a depleted squad faces a stern test against the World Cup runners-up.

A viral infection has ravaged the Dutch squad this week, with the France clash followed by a match against minnows Gibraltar in Rotterdam on Monday, leading to five players being sent home.

That could make the task of keeping new France captain Mbappe quiet a difficult one, though Van Dijk was keen to stress the Paris Saint-Germain superstar is not the only threat to be wary of.

"Football is played with 11 against 11, not one against one. Those moments will arise, but then it's important to defend and be well organised. We need to help each other out when somebody gets dribbled past," the Liverpool defender said in a press conference.

"However, it's crystal clear that Kylian Mbappe is a world-class player. He can make the difference, that's clear. We need to do well, both defensively and offensively.

"If our attackers are performing well, that also makes things easier for us as defenders. We need to do things together.

"I'm looking forward to it, and I get the feeling from this group that I'm not the only one."

Koeman will not be able to call upon Matthijs de Ligt or Van Dijk's club-mate Cody Gakpo, with the duo among the contingent to come down with illness, while Frenkie de Jong is unavailable through injury.

Though that leaves significant voids to fill, Van Dijk is confident other players can be counted on.

"Of course, it's a let-down, but, on the other hand, everybody who gets called up to this squad is good enough to play in this squad," he added.

"We'll miss Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, the others as well. Everybody has their role in this group, but without them, others will have to step up. I am confident everyone will do so."

Virgil van Dijk highlighted the importance of Champions League football for Liverpool in their bid to improve the squad for next season.

Jurgen Klopp's side suffered elimination from Europe's elite competition with a resounding 6-2 aggregate defeat against Real Madrid in the last 16.

Sitting six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham in the Premier League with a game in hand over the north London side, Liverpool face a fight to secure their spot in next season's competition.

Significant departures may also be on the cards, with Roberto Firmino already announcing he will leave upon the expiration of his contract, and Van Dijk understands being able to offer Champions League football may be crucial in the hunt for new additions.

"Obviously, players are going to leave. That's been announced, so, if we want to be where we have been the last five years, we need quality imports, especially with those players leaving," he told reporters.

"Everyone knows that's going to be very difficult. It is going to be very difficult to find the right players, but the club has to do their job in this case.

"We still have a lot of games to play and we want to be in the Champions League. I think that will also help to attract the best players in the world. Not all the time but it will definitely help."

Due to Fulham's involvement in the FA Cup quarter-finals, Liverpool are not in Premier League action this weekend and have plenty of time to prepare for a crucial run of fixtures.

Following the upcoming international break, Liverpool face back-to-back away matches against Manchester City and Chelsea before welcoming league leaders Arsenal to Anfield in a stretch that could define their season.

"It's going to be very defining and that's something we all know," Van Dijk added.

"It's been a season where we can't find the consistency that we have had for the last few years, but we need to get it back.

"It sounds very simple but it's the most difficult part of football. The most difficult part of being a footballer is to stay consistent in each and every game.

"We will give it absolutely everything because I want to play in the Champions League, we all want to play in the Champions League. The fans want to play in the Champions League.

"We are the players on the pitch, we have to perform, and we have to show it, but we need also our fans. They have stuck with us in the good times, and we need them probably even more in this time. We will fight."

Virgil van Dijk conceded the "damage was done in Liverpool" as the Reds' exit from the Champions League was confirmed in a 1-0 defeat at Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Despite racing into a two-goal lead in the first leg at Anfield last month, Jurgen Klopp's men succumbed to a 5-2 reverse in a tie that represented a repeat of last season's final, which Madrid won 1-0 in Paris.

Liverpool had their moments at the Santiago Bernabeu but were unable to find a breakthrough and also had goalkeeper Alisson to thank for giving them a fighting chance.

But ultimately, Madrid star Karim Benzema's 78th-minute goal earned Carlo Ancelotti's side a 1-0 win on the night and a 6-2 aggregate success.

Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk said: "I think if I'm honest the first half was quite even. 

"It's always going to be a very difficult task to come here and turn it all around. But you try not to look ahead, you try to win obviously.

"In my time at Liverpool with the games we've played against Real Madrid, I've never won against them, so it's always something that we wanted to do, we wanted to win.

 

"I think we created some dangerous moments in the first half. They had a couple of shots from distance as well and obviously with the quality they have on the break, especially Benzema dropping in, Vinicius with the speed and obviously his quality. It could always be dangerous on the break. 

"It was tough but I think the damage was done in Liverpool and that's the most disappointing thing."

Van Dijk acknowledged Madrid's coolness in the big moments was a decisive factor.

"I think you play against a team who never get fazed a little bit," he added. "Even when you put them under pressure, even if [they] have difficult moments, they try to stay calm and obviously they have the players, if you look at [Luka] Modric, Benzema they're difference-makers and especially when they're under pressure.

"But still, I think in the first half we could have scored and it could be a totally different game. But today was definitely all about the small margins, and [in the] second half you try your absolute best and you just come too short."

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