(REUTERS) – Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk’s lengthy absence owing to a knee injury has opened up the English Premier League title race and the champions must look to sign a replacement in the January transfer window, former Reds defender Jamie Carragher said.
The 29-year-old will have surgery for damaged ligaments suffered in Saturday’s (Oct 17) Merseyside derby draw against Everton after a challenge by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
“The big question you’re looking at now is, can Liverpool win the league without van Dijk there? I think it blows the title race wide open,” Carragher, who was at Anfield from 1996 to 2013, told Sky Sports.
“I still felt at the start of this season Liverpool were the team to beat. With van Dijk out for what looks like the whole season, it’s going to be all on for Liverpool.
“Liverpool have to go into the market in January and not just because of van Dijk’s injury. They were weak in that area anyway. They lost (Dejan) Lovren before the start of the season… others in those positions are injury prone.”
Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy described van Dijk as the best centre-back in the world and said that Liverpool would be more vulnerable without him.
“Fabinho can drop in there if (Joel) Matip and (Joe) Gomez are struggling but beyond that, there’s not much there,” he told the BBC.
“They’ve got to get through to January without him (van Dijk).”
The Dutchman said in a statement that he was hoping to make a quick return.
“In football and in life, I believe everything happens for a reason and it’s important to try and keep level-headed whether going though the highs or the lows,” he said.