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Van Dijk the key to Liverpool surpassing Man City, says Gullit

A Dutch legend believes the success of a compatriot at Anfield highlights Manchester City’s defensive struggles in the latest Premier League battle

Virgil van Dijk’s presence is the key reason Liverpool have surpassed Manchester City in the Premier League pecking order, according to Ruud Gullit.

Netherlands international Van Dijk has been an inspiration for the Reds since joining them from Southampton for a reported £75 million ($98m) in January 2018.

He helped Liverpool to Champions League success last season and the club now lead champions City by 25 points in an extraordinary top-flight campaign, with the defender an ever-present in their 26 matches.

His compatriot Gullit believes a combination of Van Dijk’s brilliance and City’s struggles to find a reliable defensive option has led to a major power shift at the top of the table.

“In order to win, all the best teams have a good defence,” the former Chelsea and Newcastle manager said to Omnisport speaking ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards.

“At Barcelona, with Carles Puyol at the back, they had a good defence. 

“If you don’t have that then you can attack all you like but you’re always conceding a lot of goals. 

“Pep Guardiola bought four central defenders and they couldn’t do it. That was unlucky also with injuries but it is a stable factor to have defenders that can do the things that you need to do.

“A lot of teams don’t defend well. So, with Van Dijk, that was an issue that was done [solved].”

He added: “Van Dijk was an example that I was right in Holland. If I say you have to learn how to defend people say, ‘You’re always with the defending’ and things like that.

“But that’s where it all started. Now they say you’re right, [you can have success] if you have a good defender, and the good thing is it was a Dutch defender.” 

Liverpool are currently preparing to come up against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Jurgen Klopp’s men will be fresh after beating Norwich 1-0 at Carrow Road on Saturday evening – a result which extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 43 matches.

After their trip to Wanda Metropolitano, Liverpool will look ahead to a home fixture against West Ham next Monday, which comes five days before they take on Watford at Vicarage Road. 

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