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Graeme Souness has said Liverpool could cope without Salah or Mane

Graeme Souness has said that Liverpool would be able to cope in the absence of Sadio Mane [£34 million] and Mohamed Salah [£34 million] if either were injured for a sustained period.

The Sky Sports pundit believes the one irreplaceable figure in the team, as opposed to Liverpool’s forward duo, is none other than Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk, 29, has been on the sidelines since October 17 having ruptured his ACL during the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.

No time-frame has been put on the Dutchman’s return date although a report from The Sunday World claims that Van Dijk could still make a comeback before the end of the season.

And former Liverpool man Souness has recognised the major drop-off in quality that has resulted following Van Dijk’s injury.

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He told Sky Sports’ Pitch to Post podcast: “If you go back to the start of the season and you sat down with Jurgen Klopp and asked: ‘Who is the one player you don’t want to be injured for a lengthy time this season?’

“Some people might say Mane. Others might say Salah. But I think they’ve got goals in the team. But you haven’t got anyone to replace Virgil van Dijk. He is the glue that keeps everyone together at the back.”

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What RTK has to say

Having accumulated 97 and 99 points in back-to-back campaigns, Liverpool’s standards have slipped across the board this term.

In recent weeks, especially, the Reds have suffered without their defensive lynchpin and chief organiser at the back.

When teams sit back against Liverpool, usually Klopp’s men remain patient, and usually find a way to pull through.

However, in the absence of Van Dijk, there has been a sizeable impact on their ability to build attacks from the back.

As a result, Klopp has been forced to pair Fabinho and Jordan Henderson together at the heart of Liverpool’s defence. This isn’t sustainable going forward as their influence in midfield is too great a miss.

Still, Liverpool have been able to remain competitive and the team should be applauded for that.

Make no mistake, however, had Liverpool avoided such an injury to their most important player, there is no doubt that the Reds would be in a greater position of strength heading into the half-way point of the season.

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