Carlo Ancelotti has launched a staunch defence of his under-fire goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and claims the reaction to his challenge on Virgil van Dijk has been over the top.
Liverpool’s defensive linchpin is set to undergo surgery on his knee and faces the prospect of missing the rest of the season following Pickford’s reckless attempt to win the ball during the opening stages of last weekend’s Merseyside derby.
Pickford escaped without even a caution after it was revealed that VAR official, David Coote, had forgotten the rules and not sanctioned a red card having already ruled on a contentious offside decision.
The England international has subsequently been subjected to a barrage of abuse on social media and been the recipient of death threats from rival fans. A number of senior Liverpool players have spoken of their frustration with Gini Wijnaldum branding Pickford ‘stupid’.
Jurgen Klopp has struggled to hide his ire and frustration but Ancelotti is adamant that Pickford did not deliberately set out to injure Van Dijk and he, himself, has been saddened by the Liverpool centre-half’s plight.
‘To be clear, we are really sorry for the injury to Virgil van Dijk,’ said the Everton manager. ‘Jordan arrived a little bit later but his intention was to try to reach the ball. It was not to hurt Virgil van Dijk.
‘To say it was premeditated, and this and that, in my opinion, is too much. Virgil van Dijk knows this. Jordan is really sad, really disappointed [that Virgil is injured].’
Liverpool adjusted to life without Van Dijk for the time being by recording a morale boosting 1-0 win over Ajax last night in Amsterdam as Klopp’s side began their latest Champions League campaign in the perfect fashion.
‘Fab played a few times there last season and the more games playing together, everyone is going to get more confident, for sure,’ he said. ‘We’ve known each other for a long time and it’s not just the centre-backs and the goalkeeper, it’s the whole team defending and it was a very good job from everyone.
‘Obviously we know we are going to miss Virgil and it’s a big loss for us, but it’s how to react. We have many good players who can play in this position – Fabinho did great tonight with Joe.
‘We have a great squad and we have shown at different times last season, when anyone is not playing, another one comes from the bench to do the same and even better. We are going to miss Virg, for sure, but I thought we did good tonight from the defending side.’