Liverpool v Villarreal Semi Final Leg One - UEFA Champions League
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'It's crazy': Van Dijk absolutely blown away by how good 'fantastic' Liverpool player has been this season

Virgil Van Dijk has praised the quality of Ibrahima Konate after another excellent Liverpool display from the 22-year-old last night.

Konate was imperious once again in the Champions League as Liverpool brushed Villarreal aside at Anfield. Speaking to LFCTV GO, his centre-back partner for the evening highlighted how impressive Konate has been in his debut season at the club, whilst also highlighting room for improvement.

“Fantastic player, to be that good already at such an age, it’s crazy in my opinion,” raved Van Dijk. “But there’s still loads to learn.”

“In my opinion as a centre-back it comes with experience, dealing with situations, dealing with mistakes dealing with moments that you feel maybe to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But he’s already at such a high level and such consistency as well.”

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Virgil’s absolutely spot-on. It isn’t the first time he’s spoken glowingly about his teammate, who he clearly rates very highly. At Konate’s age Liverpool’s number 4 had just joined Celtic. If the Frenchman is this good now, he’s going to be one heck of a player in the future.

Konate shines again

In truth it was a much more comfortable evening than both centre-back’s may have expected. But Konate set the tone by dominating some early aerial battles.

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According to stats provided by Fotmob, the young defender won 100% of his five aerial duels during the game. Most of those seemed to come in the opening exchanges as Villarreal looked to bypass Liverpool’s press.

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They soon found this to be a fruitless avenue though. Konate was not to be beaten.

Instead, they attempted to play through Liverpool’s relentless hunting of the ball. Although this had some success, it was impossible to sustain and Jurgen Klopp’s side wore them down in the second half.

Choosing Van Dijk’s partner

In rotating his centre-back options, Klopp seems to have settled on a happy balance for the time being.

Joel Matip seems to be the manager’s preferred option in the Premier League, whilst Konate comes in for the European games. Matip himself has been thankful to Klopp for managing his minutes after an injury-hit couple of years.

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Konate has now started the last three Champions League games for The Reds. With a big game coming quickly this weekend at Newcastle United, and the second-leg at Villarreal just three days later, it’s likely that Klopp will stick with this tried and tested formula.

The big question then is if Liverpool do make it through to the final, who would be Klopp’s choice to partner Van Dijk.

The smart money would be on Matip who has comfortably played the most this season. But if Konate can put in some more commanding performances between now and then, he’ll definitely be giving the manager a dilemma.

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