LONDON • Trent Alexander-Arnold is confident Liverpool can still aspire to win the Champions League and Premier League even without the talismanic presence of Virgil van Dijk.
The Dutch defender is expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering cruciate ligament damage in a contentious Merseyside derby against Everton last month.
But since then, Liverpool have picked up maximum points from four games to move to the top of the Premier League and Group D in the Champions League.
Last season, Jurgen Klopp’s men ended a 30-year wait to win the English league, and having won the Champions League and their sixth European Cup the previous campaign, Alexander-Arnold believes the team’s experience will be key to overcoming the obstacles they face this season.
“All that matters is the circle we are in, the team we are in,” the England defender said at the team’s virtual press conference ahead of today’s Champions League trip to Italy’s Atalanta.
“On the outside, people have opinions and say things, but as long as we are focused on what we want to achieve, we can achieve.
“Now knowing we can achieve these things, we know we can go far in the Champions League, we can go far in the title race. Knowing that gives us the belief that anything can happen.
“No matter the setbacks or the players we lose to injury, we can still achieve these things.”
Manager Klopp yesterday also revealed at the same press conference that Liverpool’s injury crisis was beginning to ease, with Joel Matip and Naby Keita back in contention to face their Serie A opponents, although Thiago Alcantara will miss his fifth straight game.
With Fabinho and van Dijk out, the German was facing the possibility of starting 19-year-old academy graduate Rhys Williams in defence for the second successive European game today.
Nathaniel Phillips, who started against West Ham at the weekend, was omitted from the Reds’ Champions League squad, so the return of the experienced Matip will be a welcome sight.
Now knowing we can achieve these things, we know we can go far in the Champions League, we can go far in the title race.
But Klopp is in two minds whether to field him – the Cameroonian has missed their last four games through injury – against Gian Piero Gasperini’s players, saying: “Naby and Joel trained yesterday with the team, full.
“I have really no idea what I do with this information in the moment because yes, they trained, that’s good, it’s better than if they don’t train.
“But we have to see what we do with it. We have another day to make these decisions. A lot of players will be on the plane hopefully, and so decisions will be made late, late, late.”
Atalanta, on their debut campaign, made a surprise run to the last eight of the Champions League before bowing out to eventual finalists Paris Saint-Germain.
Having finished third in Serie A last term, they have built on their success and are among the early front runners this season, just four points behind leaders AC Milan (16) in fourth place.
As such, Klopp feels Atalanta will be their “biggest challenge in Europe so far”, likening their brand of high-octane football to Leeds.
“With all Atalanta have done in the last few years, they are a settled team and they are very difficult to play against,” he said.
“They are similar in the way they set up.
“They are a proper fighting unit. They have all our respect and I know how good they are.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
ATALANTA V LIVERPOOL
Singtel TV Ch110 & StarHub Ch214, tomorrow, 3.55am