Football

Headed for a frosty return

Liverpool defender van Dijk expects to be booed when visiting former club Southampton

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is prepared for a frosty reception on his return to Southampton, but has said he is only focused on a win at his former club.

Liverpool made Dutchman van Dijk the world's most expensive defender by splashing out £75 million (S$137.5m) in the January transfer window after failing to agree terms during acrimonious dealings in the close season, Reuters reported.

Van Dijk, who has made a mixed start to life at Anfield, returns to the south coast for the first time since his move and is fully aware of what the fans could have in store for him.

The Saints host Liverpool at the St Mary's Stadium on Monday morning (Singapore time).

"Maybe they can boo the whole game. You can't do anything about it," Van Dijk said.

"Obviously, it'll be nice to see the players and the friends I have there but, for me, it is going to be about one thing only, and that is to win the game."

Van Dijk scored the winning goal on his Liverpool debut as they beat city rivals Everton 2-1 in the FA Cup third round last month but was injured for the 4-3 home win that ended leaders Manchester City's unbeaten run in the English Premier League.

Since the Merseyside Derby win, van Dijk has started three more matches, losing 1-0 to Swansea and 3-2 to West Bromwich Albion, and drawing 2-2 with Tottenham Hotspur.

The Dutch centre back was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons in the draw with Spurs on Sunday, as he conceded an injury-time penalty that allowed striker Harry Kane to equalise.

"With the football we play, the pressing, the different options with players, it is totally different here," van Dijk said.

"So, you need time to get used to everything but I am working on it every day together with the team.

"The most important thing is what happens at Melwood and what happens here with the people who care about the team... other people around, fans of other clubs, pundits, they can have their opinions, but it doesn't really bother me.

"I am talking with the manager and everyone who can help me out. I want to improve and get the maximum out of myself and that is what I am going to do."

Van Dijk is not the only man under scrutiny at the Anfield outfit.

Goalkeeper Loris Karius, who in recent weeks has taken over from Simon Mignolet as the team's No. 1, told the Liverpool Echo that he is prepared for life under a magnifying glass.

He was castigated for punching the ball straight at Spurs' Victor Wanyama on Sunday, resulting in the Kenyan midfielder scoring Spurs' first equaliser.

Karius said: "I think we've been a bit unlucky at times. "

"Often you don't have much to do," he added

"Then if you don't do something 100 per cent right, it weighs a lot heavier than for other goalies at smaller clubs who have several more saves to make in a game. That's life at a big club like Liverpool and you have to deal with it.

"I just want to present myself well and then I'll have the chance to play at this club for the next season as well.

"That's the challenge facing me personally. I also want to help this team achieve as much as we can.

"As well as the top four, we still have the Champions League. We want to go forward in that and why not win it? There are lots of big aims for the rest of the season."

Liverpool are third in the table with 51 points while Southampton are 15th with 26 points.