When Virgil van Dijk lines up against Romelu Lukaku on Saturday against Chelsea it will be the first time they have faced each other since February 2019. Despite the two-year gap, the players have met on several occasions, a total of six when including their international duties.Embed from Getty Images
Scroll through Twitter, or pop on Monday Night Football and you simply cannot escape the mouthwatering prospect of the battle between van Dijk and Lukaku. With both Liverpool and Chelsea deemed by many to be battling for the title this season, this is a huge game for the Reds at Anfield and the two stalwarts are sure to feature prominently.
So, what’s happened previously, how have they matched up and what can we expect on Saturday?
Previous Meetings between van Dijk and Lukaku
Wednesday 9 November 2016 | Netherlands 1 Belgium 1
Virgil van Dijk first bumped into Romelu Lukaku (most likely literally) in an international friendly in 2016. The Dutchman played the entire 90 minutes with Lukaku only entering play just after the hour mark replacing Mertens. There was nothing really significant to note from both men’s performances but little did they know at the time how often they would put each other to the test.
Sunday 27 November 2016 | Southampton 1 Everton 0
Just a few weeks after their international encounter, both players would meet again with their respective clubs in the Premier League. Both would play the full game with Lukaku picking up a yellow card.
It was still early days in Lukaku’s career but the match report was damning, van Dijk along with his defence had kept him quiet…
“… in a game which striker Romelu Lukaku, despite playing the full 90 minutes, had just 35 touches.”Neil Johnston
Saturday 23 September 2017 | Southampton 0 Man United 1
By 2017, Lukaku had now joined Manchester United, van Dijk remained at Southampton but on this occasion was on the losing side as an unused sub. Lukaku did feature, finding the net after just 20 minutes and the Belgian picked up a yellow card.
Saturday 10 March 2018 | Man United 2 Liverpool 1
By March of 2018, van Dijk had also found himself a new club having moved to Liverpool in January. Virgil played the whole game, as did Lukaku. There were two goals from Rashford, one of which Lukaku assisted. Bailly also provided an own goal for Liverpool.
Several match reports described how Lukaku “bullied” the Liverpool defence and the Belgian forward was awarded man of the match. While there is no denying he created massive problems, Liverpool were not helped on the day by a shaky Dejan Lovren either.
Embed from Getty Images
“Lukaku is one of the best strikers in the world.”Jurgen Klopp
Sunday 16 December 2018 | Liverpool 3 Man United 1
In December 2018, Liverpool and United faced each other again. Lukaku notably picks up another yellow card in this fixture (pattern forming?) but there’s little more to write about on his part. United had hardly any real chances on the day and van Dijk put in a good shift. Big Shaq scored two late on that day, all the best to him at Lyon!
Sunday 24 February 2019 | Man United 0 Liverpool 0
The last meeting between the two players came in February 2019 and my god was this one of the most borefest games I’ve ever seen in my life. Both Lukaku and Virgil played the full game but there was nothing really to write home about. From van Dijk’s perspective though, this is another notch on the belt, a clean sheet for him is marked as a victory against the Belgian.
What to expect at Anfield for van Dijk v Lukaku?
So having digested all their previous, are you any closer to predicting what we can expect at Anfield on Saturday? Cause I’m not sure I am.
We know van Dijk is extremely fresh back from injury but his first two games have filled fans with confidence. His performances against both Norwich and Burnley were slick and commanding, alongside Matip, Virgil looked completely in control. The Dutchman helped wrap up two clean sheets for the Reds.
“But Norwich and Burnley aren’t Chelsea…”
Yes mate, I’m fully aware of this but to go from having no idea how long Virgil would take to settle back in, to seeing him so comfortable in our opening matches? I have to push the positivity.
So in my opinion, there’s no question, van Dijk is ready to face Chelsea but what about Lukaku?
For those spouting “it’s only Norwich and Burnley” at those describing van Dijk’s start to the season, we could just as easily shout “it’s only Arsenal” could we not? Arsenal’s defence is absolutely horrendous and fair play to Lukaku for hitting the ground running and scoring immediately but I genuinely reckon I could find the net against Arteta’s lot at the moment…
Lukaku last season
Going back to last season, Romelu had a fantastic time at Inter, helping them to the scudetto. The Belgian scored 24 goals along the way, just five shy of Ronaldo’s total. The Italian league may have evolved recently but it’s a league still famed for its solid defenders, 24 goals in Serie A is no mean feat in my opinion.
Across all clubs he’s played for, Romelu Lukaku has scored 258 goals in total, over 60% of these have been scored in the six-yard box. If that doesn’t highlight the danger this man poses, especially against an inexperienced defender? I don’t know what will.
When talking about van Dijk earlier this week, Jamie Carragher suggested that Liverpool have got a defender who can cope with anybody one against one, and I would have to agree.
Virgil will have a close eye on Romelu from the off on Saturday and I think having faced him so many times before will be of benefit. Lukaku will no doubt use his strength but van Dijk can match that where required, either way it’s going to be a very interesting battle.
Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! #YNWA