While 2020 will be commonly referred to as one of the worst years in living memory. For Liverpool, it certainly had a lot of iconic moments.
From a footballing sense, let’s hope for more of the same in 2021.
Here are three bold predictions for the New Year…
Van Dijk to return early
There a was a sickening, gut-wrenching feeling for everyone connected with Liverpool when Jordan Pickford went crashing into Virgil van Dijk on October 17.
The look of agony on the Dutchman’s face told a thousand stories – this was no ordinary injury.
If Liverpool could ill-afford one player to spend a sustained period on the sidelines, it was certainly the irreplaceable Van Dijk.
The £75 million [BBC] Dutchman underwent a successful knee operation and has been continuing on his road to full fitness at Kirkby just seven weeks after surgery.
No exact time-frame has been put on Van Dijk’s full recovery, but it is expected to be some way before he is ready to resume training on the pitches.
Liverpool have refused to rule out Van Dijk featuring again for the Premier League champions this season, and hope his injury record will count in his favour on the road to recovery.
It’s because of Van Dijk’s super-human ability to remain durable for his team that we think he could potentially return sooner than expected.
The fact we are seeing already pushing himself hard in the gym just two months after his setback, tells you all you need to know.
Wijnaldum to stay beyond summer
Georginio Wijnaldum has been the subject of much uncertainty in recent weeks. This season, he has persistently been linked with an exit, despite his excellent form and the integral role he plays for Jurgen Klopp’s English champions.
The ex-Newcastle star has been linked with a move to Barcelona following Ronald Koeman’s appointment. However, the Spanish giants are not the only European heavyweight interested, with Inter Milan also linked.
Wijnaldum has been one of Liverpool’s most consistent performers this season – with only Andy Robertson clocking up more minutes than the versatile Dutchman.
Despite the ongoing uncertainty, Wijnaldum remains one of Liverpool’s key players this season. Not because he’s playing for a new contract, but because that’s what his mentality dictates – a top-class player at the peak of his powers in a world-class team.
The difficulty for Klopp and sporting director Michael Edwards is how long Wijnaldum’s peak will last and whether the club and player can establish some common ground.
What remains certain is that Liverpool have a big decision to make. Whether the club allow Wijnaldum to leave on a free or choose to offer a longer improved deal remains to be seen.
The one guarantee that remains is that Wijnaldum’s commitment and professionalism will not waver even if his contract runs down to the final week.
He epitomises as well as anyone the relentless mentality Klopp has successfully instilled in his players, and this might just suggest he is worth making an exception for in terms of a contract extension.
Liverpool to do the double
Liverpool really could do the double this season. This comes after Klopp was handed a triple injury boost that massively enhances the Reds’ chances.
Thiago Alcantara, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri were all spotted at Liverpool’s AXA Training Centre this week.
It immediately boosts the numbers in the Liverpool squad and adds a world-class player in the form of Thiago.
This enables Klopp to regularly and effectively rotate across both the Premier League and Champions League next year.
For the first time this season, the Liverpool boss has all of his midfield options made available to him – and that is certainly a dangerous proposition for the rest of the league.
When everyone is fit, this is by far the best, deepest and versatile squad in a long, long time.
Let’s hope Liverpool can take their dominance to another level in 2021 and deliver the double.