Danny Mills has warned that Virgil van Dijk faces a test like no other as he prepares to subdue Lionel Messi in Liverpool’s Champions League showdown against Barcelona tonight.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former England full-back explained why the Premier League player of the year will have his work cut out upholding his remarkable domestic statistic from this season.
No player has successfully completed a dribble past Van Dijk in the 36 Premier League matches he has played this season.
Mills is a big admirer of the Holland international but predicts the man he calls the “world’s greatest player” in Messi will provide a completely different kind of test.
Asked by Football Insider about the Van Dijk one-on-one statistic, Mills replied: “Wait until you see Messi. I’ve been very, very fortunate to see Messi live on several different occasions. It’s like he plays the game in slow motion and everyone else… He sees things that we don’t see.
“Even as a player you look at it and go: ‘How did he do that? How did he even see that gap, let alone execute the skills that he’s used to go through it?’ That’s what I’m saying, if he’s on song, if he plays well, Liverpool are going to find it very, very difficult.
“Liverpool can score goals, they can hurt anybody. Barcelona’s defence is not as good as it used to be – I’m talking about when Pique was in there, alongside Puyol and Dani Alves, they were outstanding, not just going forward but defensively.
“They’re not quite at that standard any more, we’ve seen that you can score goals against them. Liverpool as well, you can score goals against them, midfield at times can be overrun from time to time.
“An intriguing game for different reasons but I think realistically a lot of this might come down to how Messi plays and if Messi plays well, scores, gets assists, it’ll be very difficult to stop.”
Messi has scored 46 goals from 45 matches in all competitions this season, as well as supplied a remarkable 22 assists.
The first leg is at Camp Nou tonight, with the second installment at Anfield in six days’ time, on Tuesday of next week.