Gini Wijnaldum on Ajax clash, Group D challenge and Van Dijk injury

Georginio Wijnaldum assessed the challenge facing Liverpool in Champions League Group D and offered his reaction to the injury to Virgil van Dijk during a press conference in Amsterdam on Tuesday night.

The Reds kick off their European campaign for 2020-21 with an encounter against AFC Ajax at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Wednesday, with Atalanta and FC Midtjylland to also follow in the next fortnight.

Wijnaldum believes each of the three teams Jürgen Klopp’s men have been pitted against will prove tough opponents in their own right, but feels Liverpool can draw on the experience they’ve garnered in continental competition in recent years to their advantage.

Van Dijk was not among the players who travelled to the Netherlands for the fixture with Ajax, with the defender requiring surgery on a knee ligament injury sustained at Everton on Saturday.

However, while outlining his disappointment at the news, Wijnaldum acknowledged he and his teammates will need to show they can deal with the absence of his compatriot in their backline.

Read on for a summary of the No.5’s media briefing…

On how the injury to Van Dijk impacts Liverpool’s prospects this season…

Virgil is a really important player in our team, I think he showed that since he came in to the team and the club. He’s had really big performances; he’s a really important player for us not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch. He’s a leader in the team and since he came in we had really good results, so it’s quite normal that people will say it. It's up to us to show we can put in good performances without Virgil. It’s a situation we didn’t have to deal with before, but that's what we have to do right now.

On the challenge of Champions League Group D…

It's a difficult one, in my opinion. I know [Ajax] very well; it’s a good team, a good football-playing team – and it’s the same for the other two teams. In the Champions League everything can happen, I think we’ve shown in the years before that the away games have been quite tough for us but we’ve still managed to go to the other rounds. We are experienced with that and we know what we can expect.

On how this team responds to the setback of injuries…

We dealt with that situation a few seasons ago [when Mohamed Salah missed the semi-final, second leg v Barcelona] quite well. That was for one game, but the situation with Virgil is that we're going to miss him for a big part of the season. It's quite different if you look at it that way, but if you look at the game for tomorrow it’s quite similar because that was for one game – and Virgil will miss the game against Ajax. At that time we were able to fix the situation and hopefully we can do it again tomorrow. It's not ideal, the injury of Virgil, but it is just something we have to deal with. We will do everything to fix it.

On reacting to being eliminated from the Champions League last season by Atletico Madrid…

It was really frustrating because I think we played a really good game at home – away we were quite unlucky with the goal we conceded. At home we started really well, we had the goal we wanted. We scored a second goal, but unfortunately it was after the 90 minutes. We gave it away a couple of minutes after we scored the second one. It was really disappointing because we knew how difficult it was to score against them and to beat them. We did well with scoring two goals, but we also conceded after we scored the two goals, so it was really frustrating because, as I just explained, we knew it was going to be difficult to score against Atletico Madrid and also to win the game. The first part went quite well, but the second didn’t happen.

On the difference between playing with and without Van Dijk…

I think everyone can see what kind of impact he had since he came to the club. I remember that one time we played a game against Poland with the national team, a game without a crowd. They had the cameras on him during the game and then you could see what kind of leader he is. He coached everywhere and anywhere, coached everyone on the pitch, trying to make it easier for his teammates by communicating with them. That’s the kind of person he is, he is a leader and that's something we're going to miss. Some players have it more than other players. He has it a lot and that's what we're going to miss.

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