Virgin van Dijk vs Romelu Lukaku: their past battles assessed ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Chelsea

Virgil va Dijk and Romelu Lukaku will do battle once against when Liverpool play Chelsea later. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesVirgil va Dijk and Romelu Lukaku will do battle once against when Liverpool play Chelsea later. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Virgil va Dijk and Romelu Lukaku will do battle once against when Liverpool play Chelsea later. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images | Getty Images
The pair both lay claim to being the best players in the world in their respective positions and will go head to head for a fifth time at Anfield.

It’s a tantalising battle being defined as the one that will settle the outcome of the Anfield clash.

A curious sub-plot that’s proving just as interesting as two rivals going toe-to-toe to lay down an earlier marker in the Premier League title race.

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A large portion the focus ahead of Liverpool’s clash against Chelsea on Saturday has been on the skirmish between Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku.

A £75 million defender who’s regarded by many as the world’s best centre-back comes up against a striker who cost Chelsea £97.5 million and could rightly be given the tag of the best striker on the planet.

In heavyweight boxing terms, this is Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua, Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier stuff.

Lukaku couldn’t have started his second spell at Stamford Bridge any better after joining from Inter Milan earlier this summer. He netted only 15 minutes into his debut in a 2-0 defeat of Arsenal last weekend.

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Van Dijk, meanwhile, has made a full recovery from a serious knee injury he sustained last October.

After a 302-day absence, he’s displayed he’s well over his problems, ensuring Liverpool have collected two clean sheets in victories over Norwich and Burnley.

Virigil van Dijk celebrates Liverpool’s defeaf of Burnley last week. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty ImageVirigil van Dijk celebrates Liverpool’s defeaf of Burnley last week. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Image
Virigil van Dijk celebrates Liverpool’s defeaf of Burnley last week. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Image | Getty Images

Now the pair prepare to clash again for the fifth time in their respective club careers.

We take a look at who has the edge going into the fixture.

Southampton 1-0 Everton | November 2017, 2016 | Winner: Virgil van Dijk

This was the first time the colossus pair came to blows at domestic level, having met in an international friendly between Netherlands and Belgium earlier that month that ended a 1-1 draw.

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It was Van Dijk who comprehensively came out on top during his days at St Mary’s.

Charlie Austin’s goal after just 14 seconds gave Southampton the dream start and Everton could find no way back into the clash.

Van Dijk nullified the threat of Lukaku, smothering him all afternoon and giving him little joy in a difficult game for the Toffees.

His best chance arrived in stoppage-time but he scuffed his effort wide.

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Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool | March 10, 2018 | Winner: Romelu Lukaku

The tables were well and truly turned on this occasion at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils raced into a two-goal lead after just 24 minutes and Lukaku’s physical power was the key reason why.

He might not have got on the scoresheet but it was his header that created Marcus Rashford’s 14-minute breakthrough.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates with Marcus Rashford during Man Utd’s 2-1 defeat of Liverpool in March 2018. Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty ImagesRomelu Lukaku celebrates with Marcus Rashford during Man Utd’s 2-1 defeat of Liverpool in March 2018. Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
Romelu Lukaku celebrates with Marcus Rashford during Man Utd’s 2-1 defeat of Liverpool in March 2018. Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images | AFP via Getty Images

Ten minutes later, Lukaku’s aerial prowess caused Liverpool all sorts of problems again. He cleverly took down a long ball before Rashford swept home his second.

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After the game, Klopp heaped praise on Lukaku’s performance, knowing he’d dominated the defeated side.

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United | December 18, 2018 | Winner: Virgil van Dijk

It was Xherdan Shaqiri who stole the show at Anfield with a fine double off the bench.

But the Reds barely gave United - and Lukaku - a sniff throughout the encounter.

Granted, Lukaku had a part to play in Jesse Lingard’s goal when his cross was fumbled by Liverpool keeper Alisson.

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But that was just one of two shots the away side mustered on target all afternoon.

Lukaku was bossed by Van Dijk and after the game then-Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho had to defend the ex-West Brom loanee’s blunted display.

Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool | February 24, 2019 | Winner: Virgil van Dijk

The honours were even at Old Trafford in the duo’s last encounter.

Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku battle for the ball during Liverpool’s trip to Manchester United in February 2019. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesVirgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku battle for the ball during Liverpool’s trip to Manchester United in February 2019. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku battle for the ball during Liverpool’s trip to Manchester United in February 2019. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images | Getty Images

The affair was a tight one, with neither side creating any gilt-edged chances.

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Lukaku had one opportunity when he headed tamely into the arms of Alisson. Apart from that, it was a subdued display.

Because Liverpool were on their travels and Van Dijk helped neutralise a potent striker, you could just give it to him on the judges’ scorecards.

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