Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann believes Virgil van Dijk will have what it takes to contain Romelu Lukaku when Manchester United face Liverpool on Saturday.
Man United know that a win over Jurgen Klopp’s men would open up a five point gap between second and third place in the Premier League table with eight games remaining.
And Lukaku, who performed poorly at Anfield, has entered a rich run of form in recent times, claiming eight goals from 11 games – including crucial equalisers in recent comeback wins over Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
Speaking ahead of the game, Hamann made it clear that Lukaku will face a serious battle with Liverpool’s record January signing.
“He is probably as tall as him, think he’s probably as quick as him, and I don’t think Van Dijk minds a physical challenge,” he said.
“You know you can never keep him out the game for 90 minutes Lukaku, because he is just too powerful and too quick and too strong for that.
“But I think Van Dijk will stand up to that challenge. The less service you give Lukaku, or the less you can stop the people giving service to Lukaku the better.”
Lukaku cannot destabilise Liverpool’s shaky defensive pairing on his own, but United as an attacking unit have the raw quality to ask serious questions of the top four’s leakiest back line.
Against Chelsea, for example, it was a mixture of quick interplay around the box and the physical exertions of players like Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba, who all covered ground and turned over possession quickly, that ultimately left the champions flatfooted towards the end, so much so that the Belgian was literally storming through the heart of their defence.
Supporters will desperately hope to see Mourinho, having conceded the initiative in more ways than one at Anfield back in October, look to take advantage of Liverpool’s soft underbelly this time around.