- Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is expected to be ruled out for the rest of the season after finding himself on the end of a horror challenge in Saturday's Merseyside derby.
- The injury now blows the Premier League title race wide open.
- Liverpool boast a significantly worse record with Van Dijk not in the team since the Dutchman joined the club in 2018, winning less than half of its games.
- "It's a huge blow that I don't think [Liverpool] will overcome," Tony Cascarino told TalkSPORT. "I think it will cost them the title."
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Liverpool FC's Virgil van Dijk is expected to be ruled out for the rest of the season after finding himself on the end of a horror challenge in Saturday's Merseyside derby.
The Dutch defender was clattered by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford in just the seventh minute, forcing him off the field.
Liverpool has since confirmed Van Dijk will undergo surgery on damaged knee ligaments, with Sportsmail reporting the 29-year-old is now unlikely to play again this term.
"That was an assault, that wasn't a tackle. That was an assault," the former Liverpool player turned Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness said after the 2-2 draw.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp added that he couldn't "find the words" to describe Pickford's challenge.
Liverpool not the same beast without Van Dijk
The Reds may have marched to the Premier League title with relative ease last season, but Van Dijk's absence will prove a big hindrance in Klopp's side repeating that feat.
Since joining the club from Southampton in January 2018, Liverpool have boasted a win percentage of 70.5% with Van Dijk in the starting line-up, and have conceded an average of just 0.94 goals per game.
Without the Dutchman, however, Klopp's men have won just 42.9% of their games and conceded an average of 1.57 goals.
"With Virgil van Dijk in your team and Virgil van Dijk out your team its a completely different side," Tony Cascarino, formerly of Chelsea and the Republic of Ireland, told TalkSPORT.
"Defensively, headers won, you've lost a passer, you've lost a goalscorer. Every part of his game is a huge loss to Liverpool, and to find a replacement is impossible because he is the best defender in the world."
Cascarino added: "It's a huge blow that I don't think [Liverpool] will overcome. I think it will cost them the title."
The former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes the same, telling Sky Sports: "The big question is: can Liverpool win the league without Van Dijk there?
"Every team has three or four players in every title-winning team and if one of those players is missing, no matter how good your manager is, no matter how big your squad is, you can't cover for them.
"I think it blows the title race wide open. I felt at the start of the season that Liverpool were the team to beat and with Van Dijk being out for what looks like the whole season now, I think it's going to be all on for Liverpool."
Liverpool next takes on Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday, before hosting Sheffield United in the Premier League on October 24.
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