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Brentford boss expecting ‘tough battle’ between Ivan Toney and Virgil Van Dijk

The Bees forward has five goals this season but has not scored in his last seven games.

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Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk combine to stop Brentford’s Ivan Toney from scoring (Adam Davy/PA)

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk combine to stop Brentford’s Ivan Toney from scoring (Adam Davy/PA)

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk combine to stop Brentford’s Ivan Toney from scoring (Adam Davy/PA)

Brentford boss Thomas Frank has backed Ivan Toney to give Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk another good battle on Sunday.

The Bees forward produced a superb display in the last meeting between the clubs in September, grabbing an assist and generally being a constant thorn in the Reds defence’s side with his aerial presence.

While Toney largely got the better of Van Dijk in the 3-3 draw, the Dutch centre-back did produce a game-saving tackle late on to deny the former Peterborough striker a potential winning goal.

Ahead of Sunday’s trip to Anfield, Frank said with a smile: “Virgil is a decent defender so it will be a good battle.

“I hope we have some areas that can trouble Liverpool and I know in the 3-3 game we did fantastic but I watched it back on Thursday and Liverpool were very, very good.

“It is going to be a good game for us.”

Toney goes into this weekend’s clash against the club he supported as a boy without a goal since the end of November.

After scoring five times during the opening months of the campaign, the 25-year-old has now gone seven weeks and seven games in all competitions without finding the net.

A bout of Covid-19 in December has contributed towards the length of the mini-goal drought but Frank showed his forward some clips this week to point out he continues to get in good areas but just needs to improve his sharpness.

He added: “I just showed him seven or eight situations from the Southampton game where he is nearly in, in the right area for a cross or a chipped ball behind and it is just about the quality of the cross or him being a little bit sharper.

“I think he is just a bit closer to where he is when he is at his best. The last two games you see the sharpness of his touches was not where it normally is.

“We spoke about that and he worked very hard (on Friday) but it is normal that he goes a little up and down. He is a player who is good to stay in games and the more he works to get that level up I think he will be fine.”

Brentford will most likely need Toney on song to win more points against Liverpool, but will be boosted by the absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are competing at the Africa Nations Cup.

The pair have hit double figures this season, but that is also the case for Diogo Jota while Jurgen Klopp can also call upon Roberto Firmino and Takumi Minamino.

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“Mane and Salah are two world-class players and have done fantastic for Liverpool,” Frank insisted.

“I still think they have very good players in Jota, Firmino, Minimino, (Curtis) Jones.

“It will still be a top side they are putting on the pitch. We know it will be unbelievably difficult but we will embrace the moment and try to attack and do our very best to win.”

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