Liverpool's incredible year - and another form of greatness on the horizon in 2020

Virgil van Dijk: Everyone wants to achieve great things with this team

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There were three trophies for a club who had not won any since 2012. As Liverpool reflected on a wonderful, transformative 2019, honours secured in Spain, Turkey and Qatar left England as the final frontier to conquer for a team who have achieved world domination.

Their drought was ended in style in a flood of Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup glory. Liverpool enter 2020 13 points clear at the Premier League summit, having only dropped two since March and with a game in hand.

It has been a great year for them. “Yeah, 100 per cent,” said Virgil van Dijk, whose stunning 2019 included winning the PFA Player of the Year award and finishing a mere seven points behind Lionel Messi in the Ballon d’Or voting. “We are very positive about the year. We hope to finish the season on a high.”

His highlight is clear. If beating Barcelona 4-0 on a heady night at Anfield was the standout result and the most spectacular occasion, the pragmatist in the defender arrowed in on the 2-0 defeat of Tottenham in Madrid to clinch Liverpool’s sixth European Cup.

“I think the most important thing is the Champions League,” he explained. “That is something incredible.” He believes it has propelled them on a path to other honours, and not merely because it qualified them for the Super Cup and the Club World Cup.

“If you are able to play for trophies then you want to win them,” the Dutchman said. “We have been doing that since the Champions League. It is a nice habit and hopefully we can just keep going doing that and be hungry for that.”

If winning has served as a stimulant, so has the narrowest of near-misses. Liverpool posted 97 points in last season’s Premier League, the third-highest tally in the competition’s history.

Manchester City got the second most, 98. Liverpool’s sole league defeat came at the Etihad Stadium on January 3, when the distance between them was summed up by John Stones’ goal-line clearance. Some 11mm separated Liverpool from a point.

“We all enjoyed the ride we had in the Premier League last year,” Van Dijk added. “We came very close. Unfortunately City was just a little bit better but that spurred us on to try even harder this year and so we have been winning games, grinding games out and playing good football at times.

"The whole experience from last year, doing well in the league, only losing one time, winning the Champions League, the whole experience has been helping us so far in our journey this season.”

Liverpool’s capacity to win has become remarkable. They have won 27 of their last 28 league games. They lost their first two domestic matches of 2019, to City and at Wolves in the FA Cup, but none of the rest, barring a glorified youth team’s League Cup exit to Aston Villa.

They ended 2019 with 130 goals in all competitions and unbeaten at Anfield for the fifth time in their history. They took 98 points from 37 games; a return of 2.65 points per game was the club’s highest in a calendar year; only Chelsea, with 2.66 in 2005, have bettered it in Premier League history and only just.

Avoid defeat against Sheffield United on Thursday and Liverpool will reach a year unbeaten in the top flight. Milestones are a by-product of excellence.

“We want to win the game and if that brings that kind of statistics, so be it,” said Van Dijk. “Everyone wants to achieve great things with this team.” And with the elusive first league title for 30 years beckoning, another form of greatness is on the horizon in 2020.