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Virgil van Dijk v Erling Haaland – the story so far ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Man City

Haaland has scored 20 goals in his first 13 appearances for the City, but has struggled against the Dutch centre half in the past.

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool and Erling Haaland of Manchester City grapple for a high ball. (Photo by Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)© The FA via Getty Images

Billy DobsonSunday World

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk will be hoping to stop Erling Haaland when Manchester City come to Anfield on Sunday and history suggests the big Dutch defender will serve up the ultimate test for the Norwegian striker.

The eagerly anticipated clash between Liverpool and City serves up so many story lines, with Van Dijk vs Haaland one of the biggest contests in a game loaded with star names.

Haaland has scored 20 goals in his first 13 appearances for the City, but has struggled against the Dutch centre half in the past, as these four previous meetings confirm.

Liverpool 4-3 RB Salzburg, October 2nd 2019, Anfield

The first time the duo met was in the Champions League. Defending champions Liverpool welcomed underdogs RB Salzburg to Anfield in October, with the Swiss side making headlines in their previous European match.

Haaland had scored a first half hat-trick in a 6-2 win over Genk in his first Champions League game, with many speculating that he could cause Jurgen Klopp’s side problems.

RB Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch started Haaland on the bench, introducing him to the pitch in the 56th minute. His side had just pulled a goal back to make the score 3-2, and four minutes later, they were level. Enock Mwepu’s pass found Takumi Minamino, the Japanese international squaring the ball to an unmarked Haaland who tapped in for his fourth Champions League goal. Klopp’s side went on to win the match 4-3 through a 69th minute Mohamed Salah finish.

RB Salzburg 0-2 Liverpool, December 10th 2019, Stadion Salzburg

With eight goals in his first five Champions League games, Haaland met Van Dijk once again. The Norwegian was at the centre of multiple transfer rumours linking him to some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

If results went the way of Salzburg, they had a chance of topping Group E, but a loss would see them demoted to the Europa League. The visitors also required a win to avoid any chance of a shock elimination from the tournament.

Two second half goals in as many minutes were enough for Liverpool to wrap up a 2-0 victory and top the group, leaving Salzburg third in the group. It was the first time Haaland had played in Europe without scoring, with two left footed efforts failing to test goalkeeper Alisson.

That would be the last time Haaland featured in Europe for Salzburg, making a €22.5 million move to German side Borussia Dortmund.

Pep Guardiola hails Erling Haaland’s ‘incredible instinct’ in front of goal

Norway 1-1 Netherlands, September 1st 2021, Ullevaal Stadion

Haaland and Van Dijk met for the first time on the international stage in September 2021. Norway hosted the Netherlands in matchday four of the 2022 World Cup qualifying stage, with both sides picking up six points from their opening three games. Haaland had got the better of his Dutch opponent early in the game, beating him to a through ball before his shot was saved by Justin Bijlow.

Just six minutes later, Haaland would beat Bijlow. A Norway was cleared by the Netherlands, before Stefan Strandberg’s lofted pass found Haaland unmarked.

Van Dijk made a sliding effort in an attempt to deny the striker, but the ball trickled into the bottom corner, giving Norway the lead. The game ended 1-1, with Davy Klaassen pulling his side level after 36 minutes.

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City, July 30th 2022, King Power Stadium

The fourth and most recent of their duels came just over two months ago in the Community Shield. Haaland would make his Manchester City debut after his highly awaited €60 million move from Dortmund. Liverpool’s new man Darwin Nunez would also make his debut, with many fans debating over which striker would have a bigger impact on their respective sides.

Liverpool scored two late goals, with Nunez wrapping up a 3-1 win for his side in added time. Headlines were made when Haaland missed the target from just yards out, with his attempt at an open goal flying over the crossbar.

Van Dijk came out after the game and claimed that the 22-year-old striker would be a handful for other Premier League centre halves. With 15 league goals in just nine games, he may have had a point.

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