LIVERPOOL finally got their hands on that elusive Premier League trophy last season as they stormed to their first title in 30 years.
Jurgen Klopp had hoped his lads could make it two in a row, too.
But the Reds' hopes of securing back-to-back titles took an almighty hit thanks to a moment of madness from Jordan Pickford, who has ecapsed nay punishment for the challenge.
The Everton stopper sickeningly lunged into Virgil van Dijk during Saturday's heated Merseyside derby.
The Dutch defender, 29, was forced off the pitch – before later revealing he would require surgery to repair the serious knee ligament damage.
Van Dijk could miss the rest of the 2020-21 season – although Liverpool are yet to confirm the time-frame for his return.
But one thing is for certain: Liverpool are going to struggle to compete for honours this season.
In an already-congested schedule, Klopp had hoped to rely on Van Dijk, as he so often has since his January 2018 arrival.
The supremely fit, strong and talented centre-back would have been a mainstay in the defence for almost every game this season.
Now, Liverpool will rely on Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – who have incedibly NEVER started a game together – to keep the defence solid this season.
Youngsters Sepp van den Berg, Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips are the only other natural central defenders in the squad.
Fabinho has often deputised in the heart of defence to good effect, but he will be a huge loss in the middle of the park.
Even if Klopp can cobble together a decent defensive partnership every week, they won't be able to replace Van Dijk – arguably the best centre-back on the planet at present.
According to the stats, Liverpool are a far inferior team without their talismanic defender in the XI.
Since his arrival at Anfield, Van Dijk has played 130 times – while missing just 13 games.
When Van Dijk has been on the pitch, Liverpool have won 70 per cent of their matches, scoring an average of 2.2 goals per game, while conceding just one per match.
Without the Dutchman though, the Reds have won a worryingly poor 46 per cent of games, scoring just 1.7 goals per match and conceding 1.5 per game.
Since his arrival nearly three years ago, no defender in the Premier League has kept more clean sheets than Van Dijk – who has 43 to his name.
Van Dijk is also top of the pile in terms of duel success – winning 74.4 per cent of his battles.
In the air, the Dutchman boasts the second-highest aerial duel win-rate – at 74.6 per cent, behind only team-mate Matip.
Van Dijk also has the third-best tally when it comes to minutes per goal conceded, shipping a goal every 111 minutes – which, given the volume of minutes played, is all the more impressive.
It's not just his defensive input either, though – with Van Dijk just one behind top-scoring defender Patrick van Aanholt with ten goals since January 2018.
His range of passing, playing it short to the midfield or drilling one over the top to Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino or Mohamed Salah will also be hugely missed.
Sheer numbers can hardly do justice to just how much Liverpool will miss Van Dijk.
But they do paint a clear picture: Liverpool are not the same without him.
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