David Luiz has rightly received due praise for his imperious performance against Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday, not only playing a pivotal hand in stopping the Reds’ rampant attack, most notably with a goal-line clearance from a Roberto Firmino header, but also causing problems at the other end via his raking through balls from back to front.
But the Chelsea star wasn’t the only commanding centre-half to impress at Stamford Bridge, ironically in a game that will mostly be remembered for the technical mastery and offensive intensity of both teams rather than the quality of the respective backlines.
Indeed, Luiz’s opposite number Virgil van Dijk was fast-tracked back into the starting XI despite suffering a rib injury that kept him out of a Carabao Cup tie with the same opponents on Wednesday night, and the Dutchman quickly demonstrated just why he’s so important to this Liverpool team.
Like Luiz, his quality was felt not only defensively but also in possession. Van Dijk enjoyed the most touches of the ball of any player on the pitch and completed 85% of his passes – including 12 accurate long balls which once again represented a game-highest.
Telling of van Dijk’s influence too was Olivier Giroud’s largely muted involvement in the match. The Frenchman gave Chelsea a direct target in the air but not much came of it as the Liverpool star won five aerial duels – five more than Luiz managed – while he also weighed in with two tackles, two blocks, two interceptions and eight clearances.
It’s understandable that Luiz has drawn the spotlight considering some of the doubts that have surrounded him this season upon moving into a back four.
But to produce a performance of similar quality against an equally talented team away from home, as van Dijk did on Saturday, surely deserves the same calibre of praise and acknowledgement if not more.
So, which defender had the better game on Saturday? Let us know by voting below…