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Virgil van Dijk v Sergio Aguero: The key battle when Liverpool host Manchester City
Last Updated: 12/01/18 6:12am
The world's most expensive defender goes up against the Premier League's best ever minutes-per-goal striker live on Sky Sports on Sunday - but will Liverpool's £75m man Virgil van Dijk or Manchester City's Sergio Aguero come out on top?
Van Dijk made a dream start to his Liverpool career, scoring a derby winner on his debut in the FA Cup against Everton on Friday night. If he scores again on Sunday he would become only the second Liverpool defender to score on his Premier League debut after Abel Xavier, who scored 16 minutes into his first appearance in a 6-0 win at Ipswich in February 2002.
However, former Southampton captain Van Dijk was signed by Liverpool for his defensive qualities and the Reds will be buoyed by the fact that he has outperformed all of their other centre-back options since his arrival at St Mary's in September 2015.
Van Dijk v other Liverpool defenders - last three PL seasons
|Errors leading to goals||0||3||2||1||0|
One stat which Liverpool will certainly welcome is that Van Dijk has yet to make an error which has led to a goal in the Premier League. This has been Liverpool's failing in the last three seasons, with only West Ham players making more costly errors.
Most errors leading to goals - Premier League since August 2015
|Team||Errors leading to goals|
Van Dijk has actually made only three errors leading to a shot while Dejan Lovren, for example, has made nine, of which three have led to a goal.
Relegation-threatened Saints are on a poor run of late, failing to win any of their last nine Premier League games, conceding 17 goals. Van Dijk didn't feature in their last five league games. Overall Southampton had a much better record when he was in the side.
Southampton with/without Van Dijk - Premier League since August 2015
|With Van Dijk||Without Van Dijk|
The 26-year-old Dutchman has also had the upper hand when he's faced Aguero.
They've come head-to-head three times before with the Argentina ace failing to score in any of these games.
In fact, while their last meeting came in Manchester City's 2-1 injury-time win at the Etihad in late November, Aguero failed to have a single shot on target in that game. Indeed, he has had eight shots in the three games he's faced Van Dijk, producing only one shot on target.
Another personal stat in which Aguero would like to improve upon is his record at Liverpool. He has failed to score or win in eight appearances at Anfield, and has scored only one goal in 14 appearances on Merseyside - which came at Goodison Park.
Aguero's most apps at opposition grounds without scoring (European career)
|Opposition||Apps without scoring|
By stark contrast, Aguero has scored in all six of his Premier League games against Liverpool at the Etihad. Overall, no other City player has scored more Premier League goals against the Reds.
Aside from Merseyside, the 29-year-old sharp-shooter has an incredible scoring rate since moving to England six-and-a-half years ago. Since signing for City in July 2011, he has amassed 188 goals in 278 appearances, including 135 in 198 Premier League appearances.
He has 36 goals in his last 46 appearances for club and country, including 17 goals in his last 18 away appearances for City, so perhaps that Anfield trend is about to change.
Best mins/goal in Premier League history (min 20 goals)
Aguero has the best minutes-per-goal rate in Premier League history and these high-end figures are still maintained even for 'Big Six' head-to-head games.
During his time at City, he has at least 15 more goals than any other player in 'Big Six' matches.
Most PL goals in Big Six head-to-heads since August 2011
It's quite hard to believe that despite these numbers, Aguero has yet to be named in a PFA Team of the Year.
Perhaps finishing top scorer in a Manchester City title-winning season could sway the judges. But first he'll have to find a way past Liverpool's Van Dijk.