Glen Johnson is relishing one particular personal duel in Liverpool’s upcoming Premier League clash against Manchester City.
The fixture pits the current top two against each other, and it also sees the division’s top scorer come up against probably its best defender, with Erling Haaland and Virgil van Dijk facing off.
The battle between those two could go a long way towards determining which (if either) team emerges victorious, and the former Reds defender is among those who’s intrigued as to how that match-up might play out.
Speaking to Squawka, Johnson said: “If anyone can stop Haaland, Van Dijk can. The issue is, with City it’s not just about him and there’s goal threats everywhere.
“Liverpool have to be careful [to] not just build the whole gameplan around Haaland, but in terms of the one-on-one battle between him and Van Dijk, it will be interesting to see how they take the game on. I’m interested to see if Haaland will look to go in behind or drop off and pull Van Dijk away from the defensive line.”
The Man City striker missed Norway’s 3-3 draw against Scotland on Sunday due to an ankle injury but is expected to be fit enough to feature against the Reds next weekend.
He actually wasn’t on the pitch when his side won this fixture 4-1 last season, having been absent with a groin problem, while Van Dijk didn’t play when Liverpool lost at the Etihad Stadium in the Carabao Cup just before Christmas due to his involvement in the latter stages of the 2022 World Cup.
Therefore, assuming the 23-year-old recovers in time, it’ll be a first head-to-head between the pair since our win over City at Anfield 13 months ago, when the Dutchman helped us to a clean sheet.
The Reds’ captain’s performance levels have risen since then, and he goes into Saturday’s game buoyant off the back of a strong campaign so far for club and country, but Haaland’s return of 69 goals in 71 appearances for his current employers (Transfermarkt) tells us everything about his potency.
Broadcasters may bill it as irresistible force meets immovable object, and it’s an individual head-to-head which could be decisive, although Johnson is right to warn of Pep Guardiola’s side boasting an abundance of attacking threats who can’t be taken lightly by Liverpool’s defence.