LIVERPOOL centre-back Virgil van Dijk may be the single most important player to the club this season if they are to end their wait for silverware and possibly even a league title.
That’s according to Robbie Savage, who thinks Van Dijk could be more integral than last season’s top-scorer Mohamed Salah and fellow forwards Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
The Reds top the table going into the fifth round of fixtures having won all of their first four Premier League matches, conceding just one goal.
Their front three have been typically crucial, providing seven of their nine top-flight goals with Salah scoring two as he looks to retain the Golden Boot.
The Egyptian winger was Liverpool’s stand-out performer last term, setting a new benchmark for the most goals in a 38-game Premier League season with 32 and netting 44 in all competitions.
Mohamed Salah won't be Liverpool's most important player but Virgil van Dijk will, Savage suggests (Image: GETTY)
Mohamed Salah has scored twice in his four appearances this season (Image: GETTY)
Virgil van Dijk's arrival back in January has coincided with major defensive improvements (Image: GETTY)
But it is Van Dijk, and his centre-back partner Joe Gomez, who have been most widely praised with Liverpool having shown real defensive resilience.
The only goal they have conceded - in a win against Leicester last time out - was due to a goalkeeping error and Jurgen Klopp’s men appear ready to contend for the league title against defending champions Manchester City as a result of their solidity at the back.
And former Premier League midfielder Savage, writing in his Daily Mirror column, suggested that it is Van Dijk - and not Salah or any of their goalscorers - who could be the defining factor if Liverpool are to win a first trophy since 2012 this season.
The Welshman said: “I think Liverpool are well-stocked for the twin challenges of a title race and Champions League campaign ahead.
“As well as bringing in Xherdan Shaqiri, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Alisson, Virgil van Dijk looks like a world-class centre-back, Daniel Sturridge is fit again and Klopp has presided over the Premier League’s best defensive record in 2018.
Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk are two of Jurgen Klopp's most important players (Image: GETTY)
Perhaps the Dutchman will be the biggest single influence on Liverpool winning a trophy.
“Interestingly, Brighton striker Glenn Murray said on my BBC Radio 5 Live Premier League Breakfast Show that Van Dijk is the hardest defender he's faced.
“Perhaps the Dutchman will be the biggest single influence on Liverpool winning a trophy, or even their first title in 29 years.
“It will be tough to make up the 25-point gap between City and Liverpool from the end of last season.
“But Klopp has already proved he can win the title when the odds are stacked against him with Borussia Dortmund, despite Bayern Munich being as powerful in German football as City are in England now.
“His teams will often serve up free-flowing, free-scoring, ‘heavy metal’ football to blow teams away, though it’s the chiselling out the scrappy 1-0 wins, like the one against Brighton, which will make the difference here.”
Jurgen Klopp has yet to beat Mauricio Pochettino away from home (Image: GETTY)
Robbie Savage is backing Liverpool to beat Spurs today (Image: GETTY)
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will win a trophy before Pochettino's Spurs, according to Robbie Savage (Image: GETTY)
Liverpool take on rivals Tottenham today in a highly-anticipated clash (12.30pm) with the Merseyside outfit seeking a first away win at Spurs under the German manager.
Their last away clash with Mauricio Pochettino’s side saw them suffer a 4-1 defeat, one of the heaviest of Klopp’s three-year Anfield reign.
But having boasted the best record of any club in the mini top-six head-to-head since Klopp took over in October 2015, Savage is backing his Liverpool side to return the favour to Spurs at Wembley despite the fact defeat would signal two losses on the bounce for the hosts.
He added: “I don’t think Pochettino is under pressure yet. Tottenham will be content for him to deliver another top-four finish and christen the club’s new stadium with Champions League football.
“It would be a fine achievement if Tottenham managed another top-four finish without investing anything to improve their squad in the last transfer window, but £170,000,000 [Liverpool’s summer spend] vs £0.00 [Spurs’ summer spend] may prove the difference this weekend.
“Liverpool are the bigger club of the two, with more history, more trophies and a bigger global appeal. Now Klopp has a glorious opportunity to prove it - and reverse a rare stain on his record against one of the top six.”