Virgil van Dijk vs Romelu Lukaku was hyped as the big battle before Liverpool vs Chelsea. So how exactly did it go?
It wasn’t just fans who had Virgil van Dijk vs Romelu Lukaku on the mind ahead of Saturday. Thomas Tuchel even discussed it in his pre-match press conference.
“I’m looking forward to it and I think many fans of football are looking forward to that battle,” he said, per the Liverpool Echo. “It’s not only Van Dijk against Lukaku, it will be Liverpool against Chelsea, but of course for Romelu it’s a big challenge.”
This was Liverpool’s returning superstar against Chelsea’s £98m signing. Two dominant players colliding to earn control over the game.
So how did it go?
Van Dijk vs Lukaku
This was quite an interesting one as Van Dijk technically won this one by default. That’s because Lukaku simply steered clear of the Dutchman.
Per Whoscored, Van Dijk didn’t contest a single defensive aerial duel. He won some defensive headers, of course, but zero were contested.
He did contest three offensive duels, however, winning all of them. Finishing this game with a 100% success rate was unexpected but Van Dijk delivered.
Lukaku instead focused on Joel Matip. Matip faced six defensive duels and three offensive, winning five for a 56% success rate.
So you can’t really say Lukaku lost the duel with Van Dijk – he just didn’t compete in it.
Back to Van Dijk, his other numbers show off a fairly routine game. He completed 92% of his passes, won two out of two tackles, wasn’t dribbled past once, and picked up an interception.
So what does this tell us?
It tells us that Van Dijk remains a scary proposition. Lukaku intelligently avoided him for most of the game, though he was unceremoniously shrugged off the ball by the Liverpool star at one stage.
Liverpool fans can look at this and smile, though. Van Dijk has played just three competitive games since mid-October but handled the European champions with relative ease.
The more games he gets under his belt, the better he will be. The best in the world should reach his peak before long. And that can only lead to a successful season.