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ON THE VIRG Niall Quinn believes there's a cloud hanging over Liverpool as he backs surprise title contenders

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Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn believes a 'huge cloud' has been thrown over Liverpool's season following the injury to Virgil van Dijk, as he suggested an outsider could now get in the mix to lift the Premier League title.

Jurgen Klopp's Reds are back in Champions League action on Tuesday night as they take on Danish champions FC Midtjylland at Anfield, with Virgin Media Sport analyst Quinn admitting the season has been blown wide open as Van Dijk was ruled out for the entire campaign with knee ligament damage.

"Liverpool were in a great place until they got this terrible injury to Virgil van Dijk and that has thrown a cloud over their season," stated former Ireland striker Quinn, who will be part of the Virgin Media Sport team for this week's Champions League and Europa League action.

"Losing Van Dijk is massive for them. Klopp knows what this means. He comments in the media since then have been somewhat despairing and we haven't seen the smiling, laughing Klopp since it happened.

"It's a huge event in Liverpool's season. I can't speak highly enough about Virgil van Dijk and how brilliant he is to watch, the class he shows.

"Yet his absence does leave question marks over Liverpool and it gives other contenders hope for the next few months. It also knocks Liverpool back in the Champions League as this is a massive, massive blow.

"I've never seen an outpouring of grief like this from people who don't even follow Liverpool, but we all know how big a moment this is on so many levels."

Quinn went on to suggest an outsider could emerge as a contender for this season's Premier League title, as he argued the prominence of Everton, Aston Villa and Leeds at the top of the table should not be dismissed.

"I'm never going to second guess who can win the Premier League title after what Leicester did a few years back," he added, referring to the Foxes' remarkable 2015/16 title win.

"I remember thinking in about January of that season that they had an outside chance, but they showed that, literally, anything is possible in sport.

"In many ways, it's refreshing that we are seeing so many surprising results. You look at the league table and see Everton up there, Aston Villa starting well and Leeds making such a positive return to the Premier League.

"These are big clubs. It makes me laugh when people look at the 'Big Six' and think of them as the only clubs that have every mattered, but the teams at the top at this moment are all massive clubs with great history and it would be good to see a new team emerging to challenge for the title.

"Wolves have shown over the last couple of years that a good planning, good tactics, quality signings and fine organisation from a good manager can allow a team to get in the mix with the established sides at the top of the table and others are following their lead now.

"Managers have looked at the way Pep Guardiola changed the way football can be played in the Premier League and are starting to do their own versions of it.

"Everyone is now knocking the ball out to their two centre-halves on the six-yard line and asking them to start their attacks. That is different compared to what we saw in the Premier League not so long ago as a lot of teams were defensively minded and trying to grind out results, but that mentality has gone this season.

"The goals are flying on and from an entertainment perspective, it has been spectacular. The unpredictable nature of it is adding to the drama."

Virgin Media Sport will screen all Champions League and Europa League games this week, including Arsenal v Dundalk on Thursday night [Virgin Media Two and Virgin Media Sport].

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