Memphis Depay will not feature in the Netherlands' World Cup opener against Senegal, but coach Louis van Gaal remains optimistic for the tournament, believing this squad to be capable of improving on a third-placed finish at Brazil 2014.

Depay had been a doubt for Monday's match in Doha due to a hamstring injury that has limited him to only two LaLiga appearances at Barcelona this season.

Oranje coach Van Gaal, speaking to the media on Sunday, confirmed the forward would miss out against Senegal, suggesting his "idea of the match" centred around how the two teams would fare without their respective stars. Senegal's Sadio Mane is out of the entire tournament.

Depay was involved in more goals in European qualifying for Qatar 2022 than any other player, scoring 12 and assisting a further six in just 10 matches.

Van Gaal said: "Mane can break open a match, and I would say Senegal will really miss him. But the same applies to us. We are really missing our top scorer and the king of the assists."

However, the Netherlands boss had been aware a swift return was unlikely for Depay, adding: "We knew before the World Cup he had a different programme, a different schedule than the schedule of a player who is preparing for a match."

When he recovers, Depay will be tasked with leading the line for a Dutch side Van Gaal considers superior to his class of 2014 – the last team he took to a tournament in the second of three stints in the role.

The Netherlands reached the semi-finals on that occasion, losing to Argentina on penalties before beating Brazil in the third-place play-off.

Given Van Gaal's high opinion of this group of players and his own considerable experience, he expects results to follow – potentially culminating in a first World Cup triumph.

"I believe in this squad, this group of players," he said. "In 2014, we came third with a squad of lesser quality, I would say. With this group, I expect more.

"It all depends not only on technical skills and tactical skills but also a bit of luck that you score at the right time or that the others don't score.

"I think we could become world champion, but there are squads that are in my view of a higher level than my squad. The thing is how the squad deals with that, and there I think I may be able to benefit from a head start.

"I'm saying we can become world champion. Whether we become world champion is a separate issue, but I'm saying we can."

While Van Gaal would not confirm the identity of his starting goalkeeper, he hinted at Cody Gakpo getting the nod ahead of Davy Klaassen in Depay's absence, and there is no doubt who his captain is.

Van Dijk appeared next to Van Gaal, who said: "I have a wonderful captain next to me. I have worked with so many captains, and he is a truly great captain. That makes things easier."

But neither Van Dijk nor Van Gaal would answer political questions after Gianni Infantino's remarkable opening address the previous day.

"I am no longer going to speak about political issues," the previously outspoken Van Gaal said. "I'm focusing on this coming match.

"I put a full stop after all these issues after we invited the migrants to watch our practice session. I requested all my players also stopped doing that and put a full stop and focus on the match against Senegal."

Virgil van Dijk has expressed sympathy for Sadio Mane after his former Liverpool team-mate was ruled out of Senegal's World Cup opener against the Netherlands.

Mane's place at the tournament in Qatar looked to be in doubt when he suffered a fibula injury while representing Bayern Munich, but he was included in the Africa Cup of Nations champions' 26-man squad last week.

On Tuesday, however, Senegalese Football Federation board member Abdoulaye Sow ruled Mane out of the team's "first matches" at the World Cup.

Van Dijk missed the Netherlands' Euro 2020 campaign last year after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury, and sympathises with Mane amid his battle to feature in Qatar.

"I don't think he will play [against the Netherlands]," Van Dijk told reporters. "I was feeling sad for him, first and foremost. I'm not happy in this case as I've been in that situation where I missed the Euros.

"We as players work so hard to get to this stage, and he has been such an important figure in that group for their country.

"I know for a fact that he will put a brave face on it, but it's tough and I feel sorry for him."

With the Netherlands missing out on qualification for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Van Dijk has had to wait until the age of 31 to appear at a major tournament.

However, the defender feels that wait will make his experience in Qatar more special, adding: "I'm really excited about playing against the best players in world football, leading out my country and representing my country in the best way possible.

"For me, it is a boyhood dream. I'm 31 now but it doesn't change the fact that I'm going to enjoy this as much. Maybe it is an even better time for me to go there because of everything that I have experienced and also we have a great group, so I am very excited about it."

As captain of Louis van Gaal's team, Van Dijk will be one of eight European skippers to wear a distinctive heart-adorned armband at the tournament to raise awareness of the OneLove campaign against discrimination.

Qatar's criminalisation of same-sex relationships and failure to address concerns about migrant workers' conditions has led to criticism of their status as World Cup hosts, but while Van Dijk is "open" to pushing for change through football, he believes FIFA should take the lead.

"I'm fully focused on the first game, and I think people higher up really should make a difference," Van Dijk said.

"Obviously when we're there, we have eyes as well. We will see things and always as a group if we feel we can make a change, we will be open to that.

"But we shouldn't be forced to do certain things which maybe you're not comfortable with. We can always try and make an impact on everything that's happening, but I'm a football player.

"I'm a human being and you guys know exactly that I'm not shy about saying exactly what I think, that's definitely the case.

"We'll see what happens, but the first thing is football. I’m not a politician. FIFA is definitely one of the responsible ones it starts with."

Virgil van Dijk says Liverpool "never doubted" the quality of Darwin Nunez following the striker's recent upturn in fortunes.

Nunez endured a frustrating start to life at Anfield following his big-money move from Benfica, receiving a straight card against Crystal Palace in just his third appearance under Jurgen Klopp.

However, the Uruguay international is starting to hit his stride in English football; his two goals in Saturday's 3-1 win over Southampton taking his tally for the season to nine.

"We never doubted his quality but obviously, when you have a price tag like that and the goals are not flowing like you want, it's good [he has shown character] and I think he's done very well," Van Dijk said.

"He has all the qualities for a modern-day striker. There is a reason why we bought him, and he's maturing, he's stayed patient, kept his head down and played and that's a credit to him. Hopefully, he can keep scoring and stay important for the group.

"Obviously, he learns how we want to play, he learns what we expect from him, he plays a little bit on the left, but also has a free role coming into the middle.

"It takes time. It is a new team, new environment, new country, new language, so it is absolutely normal for him to take a little bit more time [to settle in], but there is no doubt the qualities are there, and the goals will follow."

Van Dijk also heaped praise on goalkeeper Alisson, who made a string of impressive saves to keep Southampton at bay during the victory at Anfield.

The Netherlands skipper additionally highlighted Roberto Firmino's character, with the forward opening the scoring against the Saints after being left out of Brazil's World Cup squad.

"[Alisson is] important for the group on and off the pitch," Van Dijk added. "We don't want him to have to make saves, first and foremost. He had to do so [against Southampton] and he was outstanding.

"Brazil are a very good team, they have two of their best goalkeepers in their squad and in my opinion, the best goalie in the world is Alisson.

"I think Bobby [Firmino] should be in, but who am I to say that? He took it on the chin, all you can do is recover and be ready for the rest of the season and I think he will do that."

Liverpool fans will say their team is like a box of chocolates at the moment in that you never know what you're going to get, and also they can be hazardous to your health.

A wobbly start to the campaign looked to have got back on track after wins against Manchester City and West Ham, only for an insipid defeat at Nottingham Forest last week to send Jurgen Klopp's men back into crisis.

A 3-0 win at Ajax on Wednesday to secure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League should boost confidence again, but it is still anyone's guess as to which version of the Reds will turn up when they host Leeds United on Saturday.

Jesse Marsch heads to Anfield under serious pressure himself, with Leeds having not won in eight Premier League games (D2, L6) since beating Chelsea 3-0 at Elland Road in August.

Stats Perform has taken a look behind the numbers heading into this clash to try and get to the bottom of what can be expected.

Home comforts can calm Reds nerves

They may have not had the best start to the campaign domestically, having not won any of their five Premier League away games (D2 L3), but Liverpool remain a force to be reckoned with at Anfield.

Klopp's side are unbeaten 29 league home games (W22 D7), scoring 73 goals and conceding just 16 in that run.

It has not all been plain sailing, having fallen behind in five of their previous six at Anfield prior to back-to-back 1-0 wins against City and West Ham, but more often than not they get the job done.

Virgil van Dijk is still yet to suffer a Premier League defeat in his home stadium since his move from Southampton in January 2018 (70 games – W59 D11).

You've lost that winning feeling

When Leeds were celebrating a well-earned victory against Chelsea on August 21, few would have thought they would not have experienced another by late October.

As mentioned, the Whites are winless in their last eight league games, which is the longest current run of any team in the Premier League.

Leeds have also lost each of their past four away games, last losing five in a row on the road in the top flight between January and March 2003 – the fifth game of which was at Liverpool, where they were beaten 3-1.

They will also be missing several players through injury, with Rodrigo Moreno's likely absence a blow as the Spaniard has scored five goals in 10 Premier League games this season, just one fewer than he netted in 31 appearances last season, and just two less than he managed in his best scoring season in the competition in 2020-21 (seven in 26 games).

Mo Salah, fewer problems

Mohamed Salah has been the subject of much debate this season, seemingly not hitting his usual heights.

Last season's joint-top scorer in the Premier League seemingly enjoys facing Leeds, though, having been involved in six goals in two home appearances against them (five goals, one assist).

Salah has 10 goals in 17 games in all competitions, and is coming off another fine finish to open the scoring in Liverpool's victory in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

The Egypt forward has also created more chances from open play than any other player in the Premier League this season (28). He is creating 2.6 chances per 90 minutes on average this season, his best rate in a single campaign in the competition.

No more bottom feeding

While they have dropped some sloppy points this season, Liverpool could at least take some comfort in the fact their only Premier League defeats had been against fellow big fish Manchester United and Arsenal.

That was until last week when they handed three points to bottom club Forest, and they will be looking to avoid a similar story this time around.

Liverpool have not lost consecutive Premier League games against sides in the relegation zone since March 2012, when a defeat at QPR was followed by a home loss to Wigan Athletic.

They have already lost more league games this season (three) than they did in the whole of 2021-22 (two), while their 16 points from 11 games is their worst return at this stage of a campaign since 2014-15 (14).

Leeds might smell blood, or arguably more likely, face the wrath of a wounded beast.

Virgil van Dijk urged Liverpool to remember "how good we are" as the Reds look to bounce back from a disappointing defeat at Nottingham Forest when they travel to Ajax on Wednesday.

Jurgen Klopp's side recorded back-to-back Premier League wins over West Ham and the in-form Manchester City, but fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat at strugglers Forest on Saturday.

The narrow loss, in which Liverpool spurned numerous chances, summarised what has been an underwhelming season thus far for the Reds, who are eighth in the league and 12 points behind leaders Arsenal.

However, Liverpool could still secure Champions League knockout football with a game to spare if they avoid defeat at Ajax, with Van Dijk issuing a reminder to his team-mates over their qualities.

"What the manager said after the game, we only had ourselves to blame, we had the chances to score and another day they will go in," the Netherlands international said. 

"It was a very intense and difficult week, with a fantastic win against City and a difficult one against West Ham. Then an away game, early kick-off against Forest, who were struggling before our game.

"We tried everything but we didn't win; we know our performances, in general, have to be as consistent as they were [in previous seasons], that's what we are trying to do.

"We are trying to sort it and do everything in our power, that's what we have to do, so that's our situation. We shouldn't forget how good we are, keep the confidence and try to be consistent again."

While Alfred Schreuder's side dropped five points in two matches either side of the last international break, they have returned to form in recent weeks to open a four-point lead at the Eredivisie summit.

Van Dijk acknowledged the tough task that awaits Liverpool, who have won their last three Champions League matches against Ajax, as his side prepare to visit Amsterdam.

"They don't have the best moment also, but I know how it can be here on a Champions League night and that is something we are prepared for," the centre-back added.

"We have to match them and do even more – it will be interesting. We're not coming here to defend or draw, we want to win the game, show our qualities and make sure we go through tomorrow.

"They will know how tough it will be, we have to be confident and enjoy the occasion. Everyone wants to be at this level."

Virgil van Dijk has been on the receiving end of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp's ire "plenty of times".

The Reds defender made the admission when speaking to Gary Neville on The Overlap about Klopp's demeanour in the Anfield dressing room.

Van Dijk and Liverpool have had a difficult start to the season, which included a shock 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest on Saturday to leave them eighth in the Premier League.

But Van Dijk has been one of Liverpool's top performers since joining from Southampton in January 2018, winning Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup honours under Klopp.

The Netherlands centre-back does not always avoid his manager's dressing downs, though.

"Oh yeah plenty of times," Van Dijk replied when asked if he had been shouted at by Klopp.

"Not in my face because I feel like screaming in someone's face could be a little disrespectful but when it's needed he will definitely do it, but he shouts a lot.

"The thing is and what I like is that someone does that because someone really cares about you or the situation and wants to make sure it improves or get anyone else sharper. 

"So, I really enjoy that in a way and it helps me personally."

Van Dijk recalled Liverpool's poor performance in the season-opener against Fulham, a match that finished 2-2, and how he deliberately ignored Klopp knowing a telling off was coming.

"I was trying to go more direct and he was shouting at me that we had to play a little bit more," Van Dijk added.

"I know he was shouting from the side so I wasn't looking at him or trying to acknowledge him because I knew for a fact that he was going to go after me. It is what it is."

Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool's defeat at Nottingham Forest was inexplicable as he condemned the finishing by his players at the City Ground.

After back-to-back 1-0 wins over Manchester City and West Ham in the Premier League, Liverpool went down by the same scoreline on Saturday, with former Anfield reserve Taiwo Awoniyi getting the only goal.

Klopp pointed the finger of blame at Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk for spurning great chances, as the Merseyside club lost to a team who began the day at the foot of the table.

A third league loss in their opening 11 games was a jolt for a Liverpool team who had been looking to close an early-season gap to the top four.

"The performance I can kind of explain, the result not," Klopp told BT Sport. "I never saw a game where one team has four or five no-brainers from a set-piece, where we have to finish it off.

"The way they defend, we were perfectly prepared for that. We had always a free player: Bobby in the first half, Virgil two or three times – they have to put the game to bed."

Forest's goal also came from a free-kick, with Awoniyi firing in from close range after Liverpool gave away the set-piece near the halfway line, described as "a big mistake" from his players by Klopp.

"Apart from that, all the chances they had we gave them, because we kept playing the wrong passes in the centre," Klopp said.

"Result-wise, we should have showed consistency today. Result-wise, we could have had it by finishing the situations off."

Regarding Forest, Klopp was frugal in his appreciation, saying: "Giving a team six clear-cut chances after a set-piece, I am not sure where I should put the praise on.

"They're a great team and Steve [Cooper] is a fantastic manager, but for us we had to win here. We didn't, so credit to him and Nottingham.

"In the situations, it was us against the goalie or us against ourselves, and not us against Nottingham Forest, because nobody defended Bobby in these moments and nobody defended Virgil in these moments.

"They were just free, but we didn't use it, so if we used all of them you would be asking a different question."

Match-winner Awonyi revelled in giving Forest a second league win of the campaign.

He said: "I think it's a good game for my team. We had a plan to play compact and at the end to find a way to get a goal. At the end we won and I'm very happy about it.

"I'm honoured to get a game against Liverpool because they brought me to football. They signed me when I was 18. It was an emotional game for me. As a team we stick together as our own family, and we have to thank the fans. We just have to keep on going."

Man of the match Ryan Yates, a key figure in Forest's midfield, said: "It's what we needed. We've been putting in good performances in recent weeks and not been getting the results we wanted, but we thoroughly deserved that today.

"It's got to be [a turning point]. We've got to build on this. If we can beat Liverpool, we can beat anyone."

Mohamed Salah insisted Liverpool's win against Manchester City does not mean they are back in the title race, despite a hard-fought victory over the Premier League champions at Anfield on Sunday.

The Egyptian scored the only goal of a typically fast-paced encounter between the two rivals, racing on to a long pass from Alisson before slotting past Ederson with 14 minutes remaining.

The loss was City's first in the league this season, but was also just Liverpool's third win from nine league outings, and Jurgen Klopp's men remain down in eighth place, 14 points behind leaders Arsenal and 10 behind City and Tottenham with a game in hand.

Salah said he and his team-mates are still "far away" from the top, but will try to get themselves back into it over time.

"No, we are still far away from [the title race]," he told Sky Sports. "We just need to focus on each game and take it one at a time, we don't have to think about the title at the moment.

"Of course, personally I always love to play for a title and in my head we are going to fight for it… we don't have to feel pressure because there is still a gap to first and second.

"You can see everybody here [is] unbelievable, and we should be in a better position than we are. The players are excited to win again and I think that will give us a good push for the next games."

Virgil van Dijk and the rest of the Liverpool backline did a solid job of keeping Erling Haaland quiet, with the Norwegian still getting off six shots but being denied by Reds stopper Alisson.

"It takes a lot to get three points [against City]," the Dutchman told Sky Sports. "It was always going to be very intense."

The Anfield crowd was at its best as the home fans roared Liverpool on to victory, and Van Dijk acknowledged their contribution.

"It's always like that [the atmosphere] and when certain moments happened in the game it added fuel to the fire," he said.

"It started with the hard work we put on the pitch, and that’s the minimum that’s expected here at this beautiful football club.

"That's what we gave, and the energy we had back today [from the fans] was definitely needed in order to push us forward and keep hold of the 1-0 advantage.

"They played a big part and that's what we need for the rest of the season, especially after a difficult start."

The outoome of Liverpool's clash with Manchester City is likely to hinge on how Virgil van Dijk copes with "absolute phenomenon" Erling Haaland, according to Gary Neville.

City trail Premier League leaders Arsenal by a point ahead of their trip to Anfield on Sunday, while Liverpool are 13 points further back, seemingly out of title contention already.

Pep Guardiola's men are the only unbeaten side in the Premier League, thanks in no small part to the extraordinary exploits of Haaland.

Having only played nine games in the top flight, Haaland has already broken the records for most goals (15) and goal involvements (18) in a player's first 10 appearances in the competition. 

A trip to Merseyside will see Norway striker face arguably his toughest opponent yet in Van Dijk, and Neville is excited by the prospect of their duel.

"I still think, no matter what form Liverpool are in and where they are, Sunday will still feel like the toughest game they [City] are going to face," Neville told Sky Sports.

"Look, at the end of the day you know what I feel about those two clubs, but on Sunday you can't help but think of Haaland against Van Dijk.

"You just can't stop thinking about how that's going to play out. The best centre-back in the world for the last three or four years, who has struggled a little bit more this season. 

"But he's against this absolute phenomenon. That Liverpool back line, which pushes up with space in behind… I'm fascinated by that, I can't wait for it, to be honest."

Liverpool are winless in their last five Premier League meetings with the champions (D3 L2) – they have never previously gone six without a victory against City in the league.

Virgil van Dijk admits Liverpool's "confidence is creeping away" after making their worst start to a Premier League campaign in a decade.

Liverpool's 3-2 loss to Arsenal in Sunday's contest at Emirates Stadium leaves them with 10 points from eight games – their lowest return since the 2012-12 season (nine).

The Reds have conceded 16 goals across their past 12 league matches and kept just two clean sheets, while conceding the opening goal of the game on 10 occasions.

And centre-back Van Dijk, who has come in for criticism for his performances this campaign, accepts a lack of belief is playing a part in Liverpool's disappointing run of form.

"Confidence is definitely a thing that plays a part. We're all human beings," he told Sky Sports.

"Sometimes you need a bit of confidence in certain moments. If it's not as high, it won't help in certain situations.

"Every human being needs confidence to perform at the highest level. If you're not winning, confidence is creeping away.

"We know we can turn it around but we have to work hard. That's the only thing to do and the only way forward as well."

Liverpool twice drew level in their enthralling contest with Arsenal, only for Bukayo Saka to claim victory for the home side with a 76th-minute penalty.

The spot-kick was awarded after Thiago Alcantara was adjudged to have fouled Gabriel Jesus, but Van Dijk does not believe it should have been given.

"Obviously it was a very tough game for both sides. We had good moments, we had bad moments," he said.

"Then it got decided by a penalty that from my point of view wasn't a penalty. But it goes so quick, I haven't looked in slow motion. 

"Unfortunately we couldn't get the points to bring with us back to Liverpool."

Liverpool are 10th in the table, 14 points adrift of pacesetters Arsenal with a game in hand, after failing to win any of their opening four league games for the first time in 12 years.

In contrast to their opponents' slow start, Arsenal have won at least eight of their first nine league games for only the fourth time in their history.

"We know they're in the best moment of their lives," Van Dijk added. "They've had a great season and we knew it was always going to be tough.

"But I think we had good moments and created good chances at times. It's hard to lose it by a penalty in my opinion, but it's the case, so we have to deal with that."

Liverpool switch focus back to the Champions League on Wednesday with a trip to Rangers, before hosting Manchester City on their return to league action next weekend.

Arsenal are hugely impressed with William Saliba, but Mikel Arteta has stayed away from comparing the youngster to Virgil van Dijk.

Saliba has been fantastic for Arsenal this season, after finally getting his chance following loan spells at Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille.

The 21-year-old signed for Arsenal from Saint-Etienne back in 2019, but spent the next season back on loan at the French club.

However, Arteta did not call on the centre-back in the 2020-21 season, and Saliba subsequently left for Nice before spending last season on loan at Marseille.

This time around Arsenal kept hold of Saliba despite Marseille's interest and have been rewarded by some superb displays, with the France international starting all eight Premier League matches.

His form has seen him compared with Liverpool defender Van Dijk, though ahead of the meeting between the Gunners and the Reds, Arteta urged Saliba to "make his own career."

The Arsenal manager told reporters: "I think the way he has established himself, the composure and leadership that he's shown on the pitch – it's done in a very natural way without any flashlights, just being himself.

"Being very quiet but at the same time, very confident."

On the Van Dijk comparisons, Arteta said: "Wow, that's a big call. We're very happy with where he is at the moment.

"He's Saliba: he's no one else, and he needs to make his own career."

How do Saliba and Van Dijk stack up?

Arteta may have strayed away from comparing the players, but the data throws up some interesting head-to-head records.

While Van Dijk has struggled to hit his best form in an underperforming Liverpool team, Saliba has helped Arsenal keep three clean sheets this season, which ranks him joint-top in terms of defenders in the Premier League.

He has made 12 headed clearances, one more than Van Dijk, though both are way behind the league-leading defender in that regard (Joachim Andersen - 36). Saliba has also made 25 clearances to Van Dijk's 23.

Despite Van Dijk's struggles, he nevertheless boasts a better tackle success rate (60 per cent to 46.2) and duel success rate (72.1 to 56.3) than Saliba, while the Netherlands international has also won 25 of hs 32 aerial duels, compared to Saliba succeeding in eight of his 17.

Saliba's ability on the ball has also drawn comparisons to Van Dijk. He is able to find his team-mates with long passes, though Arteta's preferred style of play means Saliba has only attempted 32 long passes in the league.

An impressive 22 (69 per cent) of these have been successful, which betters the success rate managed by Van Dijk, who has landed 38 of his 69 long passes (55.1 per cent).

Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk has leapt to the defence of team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold amid recent criticism of the right-back's performances.

Alexander-Arnold has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny following his poor defensive performances in the Premier League and Champions League. 

The defender's mistakes in Liverpool's 3-3 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, in particular, drew heavy criticism from fans and pundits. 

The 23-year-old also failed to feature in either of England's two Nations League games last week, with Gareth Southgate making it clear Alexander-Arnold is not his first-choice right-back.

But van Dijk, speaking after Liverpool's 2-0 win against Rangers on Tuesday in which Alexander-Arnold opened the scoring with a stunning free-kick, said: "We know the quality he has and he showed it again today.

"He has been showing it over the last couple of years; he has developed as one of the best right-backs in the country."

Netherlands international Van Dijk also questioned the culture surrounding player welfare and media scrutiny in English football.

He said: "I've been in the UK now for eight, nine years and everyone here is very good to praise a player very high up to the sky and let them fall as hard as they can.

"That's what we, as players, have to deal with. Everyone is talking about how we should accept it.

"For him to just carry on working – not only him but other players as well – deal with it and show reaction today is what we need, all of us. I think it's important that we back him."

Liverpool's victory against Rangers leaves them second in Group A behind Napoli, who beat Jurgen Klopp's men 4-1 in the opening group game. 

Darwin Nunez will "score a lot of goals and show his talent" despite a tough start to his Liverpool career, says ex-Reds midfielder Mohamed Sissoko.

Striker signing Nunez, who scored on his Premier League debut against Fulham, has failed to add to his tally following a three-match ban for a red card against Crystal Palace in August.

But Sissoko – a Liverpool player for three years under Rafael Benitez – is confident the Uruguay forward simply needs time to adapt.

"It's not easy to play in the Premier League. It's a big difference between the Portuguese league and the Premier League," Sissoko told Stats Perform.

"If Liverpool spent a lot of money for this player, it's because he has quality. I'm sure he's going to score a lot of goals and show his talent, because he has talent."

Liverpool are down in eighth place in the Premier League after a disappointing start to the season in which they dropped points against Fulham, Palace, Manchester United and Everton.

And Nunez is not the only player to have struggled, with fellow forward Mohamed Salah criticised in scoring only twice in six league matches.

But Sissoko feels Salah's team-mates are as much to blame, adding: "It depends on the team also. When you play well, when you score, you make lots of good things, it depends on the team, not one player.

"The team has to play well, and after Mo Salah is going to show his talent."

With a tough run of fixtures ahead and with only two clean sheets so far, Liverpool will also need to improve defensively if they are to climb the table. 

When asked about Liverpool's back line and recent scrutiny of Virgil van Dijk, Sissoko said: "He's still one of the best defenders in Europe.

"[Just] because he's not playing well in one game or three games, you can't say he's a poor player. He has quality.

"He's captain of the Netherlands national team, he plays for Liverpool, and he's shown everyone he's a good player. He's a leader also. 

"Sometimes in football, [things] happen. Sometimes you play well, sometimes you play not good, but I'm sure after the international break all the team is going to win and [take] Liverpool higher."

The Netherlands booked their place in the Nations League Finals as Virgil van Dijk's second-half header sealed a 1-0 win over Belgium on Sunday.

Victory over Poland on Thursday meant the Oranje only needed to avoid a heavy defeat to their neighbours at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam to seal top spot in Group A4.

Belgium never looked like they had the firepower to pull off such a result, with Liverpool defender Van Dijk securing three points for the hosts by scoring in the 73rd minute.

The result meant the Netherlands topped their group with 16 points, with Roberto Martinez's Red Devils six points behind in second.

Belgium looked bright in the early stages, with Eden Hazard blazing over from a promising position and Michy Batshuayi firing at Remko Pasveer after being played in by Kevin De Bruyne.

At the other end, Denzel Dumfries cracked wide from 12 yards after fine work down the left from Vincent Janssen, which was the closest the hosts came in a first half that saw them fail to have an attempt on target.

Dumfries again went close at the start of the second period, while Belgium's Amadou Onana was denied by a smart stop from Pasveer shortly after the hour mark. 

Steven Bergwijn powered a shot straight at Thibaut Courtois as the Netherlands cranked up the pressure, before Van Dijk handed the hosts victory with a close-range header from Cody Gakpo's corner.

Courtois did well to deny Davy Klaassen and Bergwijn in the closing stages, while Belgium substitute Dodi Lukebakio struck the post with a sensational overhead kick with almost the last kick of the game.

Virgil van Dijk acknowledges he has not performed to the best of his ability during a frustrating start to the season for Liverpool.  

Liverpool have taken just nine points from their first six matches of the Premier League season, their worst return since Jurgen Klopp took charge in 2015.

Postponements following the death of Queen Elizabeth II mean Liverpool have not played a domestic game since September 3, though they clinched a much-needed Champions League victory over Ajax last time out.

While Van Dijk has been an ever-present for the Reds this season, he has not always lived up to his reputation as steady defensive influence, most notably in a 4-1 thrashing at Napoli.

Speaking after the Netherlands posted a 2-0 Nations League win over Poland on Thursday, Van Dijk admitted he has been disappointed with his own displays.

"I know I could have done better in the beginning of the season. I'm not naive about that. I know very well when I make mistakes," Van Dijk said.

"I also know that I am one of the important players at the club and of course also here at the national team. I feel that responsibility.

"Mentally it's a challenge. You feel a lot of pressure on your head. A lot of people forget that too, it's not easy to do that. 

"We all try to show our best and if, in my case, you are one of the mainstays at the club, then you get the criticism you deserve. You have to deal with that and that is not always easy. But I did that just fine."

The Netherlands conclude their Nations League campaign against Belgium on Sunday, with Louis van Gaal's team needing to avoid defeat if they are to secure top spot in Group A4.

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