Rival watch: Liverpool ace van Dijk out for over a month, doubt for Real Madrid clash
Real Madrid have restarted their campaign with a 2-0 win over Real Valladolid in La Liga, which was followed by a narrow victory over Cacereno in the Copa del Rey. But the road is set to get tougher, especially as the reigning Spanish champions look to shift their focus on European competitions.
One of the biggest tests for Real Madrid in this second half of the season will be the Champions League Round of 16 clash against Liverpool.
Heading into the first-leg encounter at Anfield next month, however, Real Madrid have been handed a major boost as Virgil van Dijk, one of Liverpool’s most important players, has been sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Regarded as the defensive leader for Liverpool, the Dutchman had picked up a knock and had to be substituted during the Reds’ game against Brentford. It was not thought to be a serious one initially.
But Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp has revealed that van Dijk’s hamstring injury appears to be much ‘harsher’ and the defender has been ruled out for more than a month.
“Virg was a surprise for us, obviously, a big blow. He didn’t feel a lot. I took him off, actually, no risk. In the end, the diagnosis was pretty harsh, but we talk about weeks – more than a month. I hope it goes quickly, but for now, he is not available. That’s how it is,” said Klopp (h/t GOAL).
“For Virg, it’s harsh. He played an incredible amount of games over the last years. [Now] we cannot use him on the pitch at least. Off the pitch, we will do that,” the German added.
Van Dijk’s hamstring injury means he could face a race against time to be fit for Liverpool’s clash against Real Madrid, with the first leg to be played on February 21 at Anfield.
The Dutchman’s absence could be a major blow for a Liverpool defence that has leaked goals this season. Klopp, though, backed his other options to do well, adding, “We have other centre-halves, as long as that’s the case everything is OK for the team.”
La Liga files charges over racist insults hurled at Real Madrid star Vinicius Jr
La Liga was once again subjected to criticism by Vinicius Junior when the Real Madrid attacker called out the Spanish footballing authority for their inaction after he was racially abused by Real Valladolid fans.
The incident happened during Real Madrid’s game against Valladolid on Friday, where the winger was subjected to insults from the opposition fans. It prompted the player to call out La Liga on social media, for their inaction.
La Liga, though, have been quick to respond to Vinicius and has recently confirmed they have lodged an official complaint to the authorities.
They have confirmed that a criminal charge has been filed with the Valladolid Magistrates’ Courts, along with audiovisual evidence of Vinicius being a subject of racial insults.
In addition, La Liga has asked the Magistrates’ office to transfer the complaint to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Hate Crimes. A report of the racial insults has also been submitted to the RFEF Competition Committee and State Commission against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance in Sport.
The two bodies are expected to observe the incident from the evidence gathered and assess the sanction.
Moreover, La Liga has promised to increase their efforts to curb racism in the stadium. As part of their efforts, they have vowed to increase La Liga Integrity Officers in matches where there is a risk of racial insults.
This is being done in order to maximise the detection of such events, which has no place in sport, said the statement.
In addition to an increased number of officers, La Liga will broadcast messages about combating racism over the public address system and advertising hoardings in matches where there is a chance of racial abuse.
In the statement, La Liga doubled down and affirmed its objective of obtaining ‘zero violence’ and removing xenophobia and intolerance.
This is not the first time Vinicius has been subjected to racist chants. The Real Madrid superstar was targeted by rival fans ahead of the Madrilenian derby against Atletico earlier this season.