‘No point’ Liverpool fixating on Man City chase, Virgil Van Dijk claims
A hard-fought 3-1 win at Crystal Palace on Sunday lifted the Reds to within nine points of Pep Guardiola’s side, who were held to a 1-1 draw away to Southampton on Saturday.
City have played a game more than Liverpool and the Merseyside outfit are set to visit the Etihad Stadium in April, leaving plenty to play for.
“You can’t deny it’s in your mind, but as we have said many times we take it game by game,” Van Dijk said when quizzed on the title.
“It sounds a bit boring, but it is like that. We are not looking at them because there is no point.
“There are so many games to play. We focus on ourselves. This was a very important one and hopefully we can build on it after the break.”
A second victory in London in the space of a few days, following Thursday’s success over Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-finals, ensured Liverpool made it four wins out of five in the absence of key attacking duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Van Dijk stepped up from a goal-scoring point of view in the capital with the opener against Palace before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled their advantage in the 32nd minute.
Odsonne Edouard pulled one back for the Eagles at the start of the second half, but a late penalty dispatched by Fabinho wrapped up the points for Jurgen Klopp’s men, with the league now taking a two-and-a-half week break before it resumes on 8 February.
Centre-back Van Dijk told Sky Sports: “It was tough. Down to us more or less. In the second half we didn’t win the right battles.
“We gave them a good feeling towards the end of the first half. In the end it was three points away from home. We knew it would be tough and it showed.”
Liverpool centre-back Virgil Van Dijk
There are so many games to play. We focus on ourselves. This was a very important one and hopefully we can build on it after the break
Palace were unable to handle Liverpool’s relentless pressing during the opening half-an-hour but clicked into gear after Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal.
Jean-Philippe Mateta, who unselfishly set up Edouard for a tap-in, credited a tactical tweak by manager Patrick Vieira for the Eagles’ upturn in fortunes.
“The first half, in the first 30 minutes, I was alone,” he said. “After we put Edouard behind me and that’s why the second half was much better.
“I wanted to score but the best solution for me is to give it to Edouard and for him to finish.”
Mateta made only his fifth start of the season, but three have come in the last month during which time he has also found the net on two occasions.
The Frenchman had been expected to depart Selhurst Park in January but now looks set to continue his loan from Mainz for the remainder of the campaign.
He told the club website: “Before I didn’t play and now I’m playing and improving every day in training, on the pitch at the weekend and that’s good for me.”