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

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

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Jamie Carragher says Liverpool must make a significant signing in the January transfer window to replace Virgil van Dijk while he recovers from his ACL injury

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.

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk goes off injured during the Premier League match at Goodison Park 1:14
Carragher believes Liverpool's chances of retaining the Premier League title have taken a massive hit following the long-term injury to Van Dijk

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.

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"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.

Virgil van Dijk comes off due to an injury 2:49
Sky Sports senior football writer Gerard Brand assesses how damaging 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

"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."

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.

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Carragher reflects on the injury news of Van Dijk and believes that his absence for Liverpool will blow the title race wide open

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

"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

preview image 0:46
Van Dijk is set for surgery after injuring his knee in a clash with Everton keeper Jordan Pickford

Can Reds rely on Matip?

Liverpool's defensive options have been stretched further after Joel Matip did not train ahead of their Champions League opener against Ajax and is unlikely to travel to Amsterdam.

Analysis by Sky Sports' Richard Morgan:

"News that Joel Matip had gone for a scan on a tight leg muscle following Liverpool's 2-2 draw at Everton on Saturday will not have surprised many.

"The 29-year-old has been bedevilled by injury problems of late, so much so that he has played just 165 minutes of football in all competitions for Liverpool in the past year.

"In fact, since injuring his knee in Liverpool's 1-1 draw at Man Utd on October 20, 2019, Matip has started only two games - at Everton in June and on the weekend - both resulting in injuries.

"All of which is in stark contrast to his first two seasons at Anfield, when the Cameroonian started 49 Premier League matches for the Reds, while he also recovered from a broken collarbone against Napoli in December 2018 to establish himself as Virgil van Dijk's central-defensive partner as Liverpool won the Champions League in June 2019."

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.

Download the latest Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on Apple | Spotify

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You read correctly. The £1m Super 6 jackpot is up for grabs for one last time this weekend. Play for free, entries by 3pm Saturday.

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