Uefa Super Cup: Virgil van Dijk has no worries over Adrian replacing Alisson for Liverpool clash with Chelsea
The Spanish goalkeeper will replace injured Alisson for Wednesday's showdown with Chelsea
It was evident what difference a year made. Consecutive Uefa Champions League finals featured different Liverpool goalkeepers who had wildly contrasting experiences.
Poor, concussed Loris Karius was horribly at fault for two of Real Madrid’s goals in 2018. Alisson was a spectator for 70 minutes against Tottenham Hotspur, but there was a case for anointing him man of the match for his saves thereafter.
Now Liverpool’s Champions League winners go into a third European showpiece with a third different goalkeeper.
Adrian has an Anfield career unlike any other: nine days after signing, following just 51 minutes of football, his full debut could end in silverware in the Super Cup.
The calf injury Alisson sustained against Norwich on Friday parachuted the understudy into a position of prominence. A £65 million (Dh267.4m) goalkeeper was replaced by a free transfer.
“I don’t think it is too easy to come on in a game as a goalkeeper but he did well,” said Virgil van Dijk.
Adrian is 32 and a veteran of 150 games for West Ham United, but none, arguably, like this. The perennially calm Van Dijk is nevertheless unworried.
“I think he played many big games in his career so I don’t think he is going to be nervous or anything,” the Dutchman said. “It is just that he has to do his job with us and hopefully we can win the trophy in the end.”
Liverpool’s most famous trip to Istanbul ended in glory and was defined by a goalkeeper, with Jerzy Dudek’s wobbly-kneed antics helping them win the 2005 Champions League final penalty shootout.
Adrian won both shootouts as a West Ham player but the individual contests may be the easy part. He has had precious little time to develop an understanding with new colleagues.
Alisson’s injury, which is set to keep him out for a few weeks, brought Liverpool’s decision-making into focus.
They had delayed signing Adrian until after Simon Mignolet joined Club Brugge, allowing the Belgian to play in pre-season; the new deputy Andy Lonergan, last of Rochdale, only signed on Monday.
Emulating the first choice may not be easy. Alisson’s assurance in possession has been a reason for his success, but he has also been adept at sweeping up behind Liverpool’s high defensive line.
“All the players that come here have to get used to the way of playing but as a goalkeeper I think it is not too difficult,” Van Dijk said. “But you still have to do it and hopefully we don’t let him make too many saves.”
Weekend scorelines are superficially encouraging in that respect. Liverpool beat Norwich City 4-1 and Chelsea lost 4-0 to Manchester United. Yet Norwich were allowed 12 shots while Chelsea had 18.
“There is obviously plenty to improve,” Van Dijk said.
At least Liverpool will not have to face an old nemesis. Eden Hazard scored a high-class winner at Anfield in last season’s League Cup. He also struck against Liverpool in the league.
“He is a quality player and he was important to them but I think they have plenty of quality players,” Van Dijk said. “They play a little bit different than they did last year. We will analyse them.”
A glance at their own record shows an anomaly. Liverpool are the only team in football history whose first trophy in seven years was the Champions League. Their drought was ended in style.
Their illustrious predecessors in the 1970s and 1980s did not always place a huge priority on the European Super Cup or the International Continental Cup, the precursor to the World Club Cup.
Now Van Dijk said: “It is a trophy that we can win and we want to win it so we are going to give it everything.”
Updated: August 14, 2019 08:42 AM