30 May 2019, 03:02 IST
Harry Maguire has described Virgil van Dijk as “brilliant” but believes England can cause the Netherlands defender problems in next week’s Nations League Finals clash.
Gareth Southgate’s side take on the Dutch in their semi-final when the inaugural edition of UEFA’s latest international tournament concludes in Portugal.
Van Dijk has enjoyed a superb season at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, helping them to a second-place finish in the Premier League and a Champions League final against Tottenham on Saturday.
The 27-year-old has also collected personal accolades as he was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Year.
Maguire says there is plenty to admire about Van Dijk but is confident the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling will provide him with a stern test on June 6 in Guimaraes.
“He’s a top player,” said the Leicester City man, who is also widely considered to be one of the finest defensive operators in the Premier League. “You’ve seen in the Premier League; he won the best player and he thoroughly deserved that.
— England (@England) May 28, 2019
“He is a brilliant defender and I’m sure people are learning from him and so they should. I’m sure he’s learning from other centre-backs in the game.
“We’re focused on ourselves more than the opposition. We have some top-quality players as well.
“We’ve got numerous players who are talented and players who are more than capable of causing them a lot of problems.
“It’s special to go up against the best teams and the best players and that’s what we’re doing.
“It gives you great confidence when you see your names up there with players of that stature but, at the moment, I’m fully focused on working for the team.”
The Nations League was initially criticised by Premier League managers such as Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp but, according to Maguire, the tournament has been a welcome antidote to the general drudgery of international friendlies.
“I think it’s been a real success,” he added, having helped England through a group featuring their World Cup conquerors Croatia and Spain. “You either play in the Nations League or play friendlies, so I know which one all the boys would prefer.
“People argue that it’s not competitive football but you see the way people react when they win the games and the celebrations.
“It’s been really competitive to play in. I feel like it’s been a real success in terms of playing against top opposition.”
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