Carragher proves history shows why van Dijk injury could cost Liverpool title

Former Liverpool defender turned pundit Jamie Carragher believes the club will have a hard time defending their Premier League title in the absence of Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutchman, who is widely regarded as the best central defender in world football, was forced off in the early stages of Saturday's Merseyside derby following a heavy challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

He was promptly taken to hospital for further testing, with scans confirming a rupture to the 29-year-old's anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that could see him sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Carragher, who made 737 appearances for the Reds, told Sky Sports that if history is anything to go by, van Dijk's absence could be a crucial early twist in the title race.

"When I started watching football it was the mid-80s and I went through teams, champions, who tried to retain the title next season," he said.

"There's three or four players who feel like you can't be without for a serious long period of time.

"Everton in 1986 lost Neville Southall to a broken ankle. Liverpool won the double in 86, Everton were champions in 86.

"One of Liverpool's greatest ever teams was 1988. The next pre-season, Alan Hansen, who was the Virgil van Dijk of that team, got injured and didn't play until the FA Cup semi-final. Arsenal won the league.

"I went back to Cantona. It wasn't an injury but he missed half a season with the incident at Crystal Palace. Blackburn win the title.

"Roy Keane does his cruciate at Leeds. Arsenal win the title. Even last season, Laporte was out for half the season and they [Liverpool] were champions."

Manchester City 's defensive struggles last campaign undoubtedly influenced the battle for the Premier League trophy, with the Reds finishing 18 points ahead of Pep Guardiola 's side at the top of the table.

And while Carragher believes that a fully-fit Liverpool squad would once again triumph in the hunt for the title, the current situation means that they will face much stiffer competition for England's domestic crown.

"Who knows what would have happened but the players I've mentioned there if they stay fit or play their teams win the league. I think if Van Dijk stays fit Liverpool win the league," he continued.

"This massively opens it up."

Jurgen Klopp's men travel to Ajax on Wednesday for their first UEFA Champions League match of the season, before a return to league action on Saturday as they take on basement boys Sheffield United.

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