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Van Dijk and Matip pass the warm-up - how will they deal with Lukaku?

Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip will face their toughest challenge since their return from injury next week in the form of Romelu Lukaku.

Liverpool’s centre-back pair have kept two clean sheets in their opening two Premier League games. They helped the Reds to a 3-0 win over Norwich and a 2-0 win over Burnley.

While both opponents had a few chances, van Dijk and Matip have produced two good performances.

Yet next weekend, they will come up against arguably the toughest striker to play against in world football.

Romelu Lukaku didn’t cost Chelsea £97.5m (BBC) to re-sign without reason. 47 goals and 13 assists in his two seasons in Serie A are just an indication of how good he has become.

We are not saying he is the best striker in the world. But he could well be the hardest to mark.

That is due to the physical aspects that he brings. Lukaku is almost 6’4″, is as strong as a horse and has pace to go with it.

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Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that he is likely to make his second Blues debut against Arsenal today. So, we highly expect him to start against Liverpool next weekend.

Considering that van Dijk and Matip are so fresh from such serious injuries, a lot of talk in the build-up to the game will be about how they can handle Lukaku.

Luckily, in Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood, Liverpool’s defenders had the perfect trial run yesterday.

If they can match Barnes and Wood physically, they can match Lukaku – RTK View

Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Of course, Barnes and Wood are not a patch on Lukaku in terms of quality.

But we are talking about the physical aspect of the game. The aerial duels, the runs in behind, the 50/50 battles. They are as strong a striking pair as you will see in the modern game.

Against Burnley, Matip, in particular, matched the strikers in all of these areas. He won eight of his 10 aerial duels and blocked two shots in an outstanding performance.

The German-born Cameroonian has this ability to come in from the cold and put in top performances and proved that on Saturday.

Van Dijk was less efficient than usual in the air. He won just five of his 12 duels.

However, this is to be expected when he is just back from such a serious injury. There is always going to be that fear of re-injury if he goes 100%.

You may think that this is not exactly what you want to hear a week before he comes up against a top striker like Lukaku, but it actually is.

The Dutchman has come through the game now, he knows that he can do it. His confidence in his body would have grown a lot from the fact that he held up against such a tough challenge.

The 30-year-old still had a very solid game and managed to keep a clean sheet.

So yes, in a way, facing Barnes and Wood was the perfect way to prepare for Romelu Lukaku.

With Fabinho expected to come back into the side too, we reckon that Liverpool will be well up for the challenge of next Saturday.

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