The loss of Virgil van Dijk makes Manchester City favourites for the Premier League title but Liverpool can still win it – especially if they move early to bring in a new centre-back such as RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano for the start of January, says Jamie Carragher

Virgil Van Dijk: Jamie Carragher says Dayot Upamecano should be Liverpool's target in January

Jamie Carragher

Virgil Van Dijk: Jamie Carragher says Dayot Upamecano should be Liverpool's target in January

Virgil van Dijk’s cruciate ligament injury could see Premier League champions Liverpool without their best defender until the spring. It raises questions about whether Jurgen Klopp’s side are capable of retaining the title.

Jamie Carragher shares those concerns and believes that the loss of the Dutchman should be the catalyst for his former club to bring forward their plans to add a new defender.

“Liverpool’s next big signing had to be a centre-back anyway and I am talking next summer,” Carragher told Monday Night Football. “Dejan Lovren went and they didn’t replace him so they only have three centre-backs and one of those, Joel Matip, is always injured.

“There are question marks now about Joe Gomez.

“So there is no doubt that Liverpool had to go big in the transfer market next summer. That was the next one. That has now got to be brought forward to January 1st, whoever the target was in the summer. Not the end of January. Not [wasting time that month] negotiating with a club.”

With many other top teams looking for a quality centre-back, finding the man to fill the void left by Van Dijk will not be easy but the name of Dayot Upamecano has already been identified.

The 21-year-old France international has been hugely impressive since joining Leipzig in 2017 and is expected to make a move to an even bigger club before too long. Carragher is now hoping Liverpool are prepared to make that happen sooner rather than later.

“There is a young man everyone was talking about at Leipzig, Dayot Upamecano, there is talk of him. Whether he has the profile of Van Dijk, I think he is only 6’1″ or 6’2”, so he is maybe not that aerial, but if he is the one they wanted then bring it forward.

“Pay extra money and do it on January 1st.

“That means getting through 11 league games without Virgil van Dijk.

“One thing to say about Virgil van Dijk is that in the last 23 games they have only kept five clean sheets, and Van Dijk played all of them, so it is not like everything was perfect. We saw the seven against Aston Villa and we saw the Leeds game.

“But I think they have to go big with a signing.”

Sky Sports senior football writer Gerard Brand assesses how damaging Virgil van Dijk’s absence will be for Liverpool as well as the contenders to step into the void on the latest episode of the Pitch to Post podcast

Even if Liverpool are able to bring a new defender in, the prospect of another 99-point season for Klopp’s men seems unlikely. However, as Carragher points out, that might not prevent them from challenging for the Premier League title once more.

“The good news for Liverpool is that this season you will not need 99 points to win the league,” adds Carragher.

    Podcast: Will Van Dijk injury decide title race?Van Dijk to undergo knee surgeryWhen does January transfer window open?Get Sky Sports

“I think it is going to be in the eighties. Liverpool and City have already dropped five points. For it to be another 99-point season you can only afford to drop another 10 and that is not going to happen.

“So Liverpool have dropped from a 98 average for the last two seasons, but if they drop 10 to 12 points, even 15 from there, they will be there or thereabouts for the season.”

A new defender would certainly help.

Who will replace Van Dijk in the short term?

Sky Sports News’ Ben Ransom:

“Like Fernandinho, bringing Fabinho into defence and losing him midfield could be a blow for Liverpool.

“But I think Fabinho will be the natural replacement, certainly going into next season. He can talk to everyone, he’s the one player, like Van Dijk, who can get Gomez or Matip alongside him, and tell the full-backs to tuck in.”

Read the full discussion from the Pitch to Post podcast

Could any of the young players step up?

Rhys Williams, Sepp van den Berg, Nathaniel Phillips, and Billy Koumetio are among the leading young centre-backs at Liverpool who Jurgen Klopp could play with Van Dijk out.

Find out more about the standout prospects

Pitch to Post podcast: Has Van Dijk injury derailed season?

Was Saturday the day Liverpool’s title hopes took the cruellest of turns?

Jasper Taylor is joined by Gerard Brand, Ben Ransom and Keith Downie to dissect the weekend’s action in the Premier League, leading of course with Van Dijk’s ACL injury and what that might mean for the champions.

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