Messi the dribbler faces Van Dijk the impenetrable
Excitement ahead of the Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Liverpool includes thoughts of various mouthwatering duels.
"How to stop Messi? I've no idea". Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk responded modestly when asked the question about his next opponent in the mixed zone of Do Dragao. His side had just disposed of FC Porto in the Champions League quarter-final and thoughts had immediately shifted to the tie that had world football salivating. There is so much to get excited about regarding a double header between five time European champions Barça and Liverpool, and one of them is how the Premier League's best player deals with the generally accepted greatest attacker on the planet, if not of all time.
Van Dijk vs Messi: a footballing paradox
With battles all across the pitch, and the tactical one from the sidelines between Klopp and Valverde, the continued impressive statistics and form of Van Dijk and Messi lines up an intriguing situation. In their respective campaigns this season, the Argentine has successfully completed 168 dribbles past opponents (almost four per game) while the big Dutchman has not been beaten by an opposing player's dribble over the same time period. This leaves us with a seemingly unstoppable force - Messi has been described in such words before - measuring himself against an almost immovable object.
Clearly one of the factors that has helped Van Dijk has been the team around him. Last season's Liverpool emerged as Klopp's now-developed side and entertained their way to second place in Europe's showpiece competition. This season the Anfield outfit has impressed with their defensive solidity, while maintaining their forward threat (if not to the sometimes kamikaze extent of their previous selves).
A solid goalkeeper behind them, and smarter tactical endeavors from the hard-working midfield trio and full-backs, all aid the central defenders cope with the opposition's talented forwards. Messi, of course, is a beast that has not yet been faced.
Players to be enjoyed
Although a survey at the time suggested that a significant proportion of the Liverpool fanbase disagreed with their club for paying the extraordinary sum of 85 million euros for the defender, few would disagree that he has been more than worth it. The next two games should allow us to enjoy both players trying to get the better of each other in two wonderful footballing arenas.