Virgil Van Dijk has insisted all friendships will be put aside for 90 minutes as Liverpool go to “war on the pitch” against Man City in a crucial Premier League match.
Over the last few years, the relationship between Liverpool and Man City has become strained.
Various incidents have meant there has been bad blood emerge between the clubs, as well as parts of the fan bases.
Among the players though, some friendships remain and Van Dijk’s with Man City‘s Nathan Ake is one.
The two play together in the Netherlands’ defence, with Cody Gakpo further up the pitch, and have developed a friendship with each other.
But, Van Dijk will put this aside on Saturday. Speaking during the international break, the 31-year-old said: “I am happy for him because I see what’s going on behind the scenes and how much he’s put in for it.
“On Saturday, he will probably be up against Mo Salah and hopefully we can get a good result.
“When the whistle blows, it’s battle and a war on the pitch.”
Van Dijk added: “After that, we pick up the friendship again and there are more important things in life than football.
“I am very close with Nathan, also in everyday life.
“We live close to each other, our families get along very well and we see each other every week. Nat has been in a good flow all year but he is also modest.
“He is playing so well at the moment and is so important for our national team and Man City. He is achieving a very consistent level and people do not realise that is the hardest thing for a footballer to do.
“I am happy for him because I see what’s going on behind the scenes and how much he’s put in for it.”
Van Dijk will be glad of returning to Merseyside after he came under fire following the Netherlands’ defeat to 4-0 defeat to France.
Despite strong criticism from the likes of Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten, Ake reinforced the importance of the Liverpool defender, saying: “Virgil is a leader for the Dutch national team and for Liverpool – and I mean a real leader.
“What he has achieved is massive. On top of that, he is a very big personality. Apparently, people don’t see how important Virgil is for us on and off the pitch. We couldn’t wish for a better captain and a bigger player in the national team.”
In previous years, Van Dijk was competing with Ake’s Man City for the title, now the two go into their clash with different goals in mind.
Liverpool’s No. 4 said: “We are now in two very different situations. Manchester City are fighting for the title and we hope to force Champions League football. With games against City, Chelsea and Arsenal, it will be an interesting week for us.”
The game against Man City is the first of seven matches across 30 days in April.