LONDON • Liverpool's standout defender Virgil van Dijk is facing a lengthy absence owing to a knee injury and that gaping hole will open up the English Premier League title race, pundit Jamie Carragher has said.
The champions confirmed late on Sunday that the 29-year-old will have surgery for damaged ligaments suffered during Saturday's 2-2 Merseyside derby draw against Everton after a horror challenge by opposition goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The England No. 1 was not penalised as van Dijk was adjudged to be offside when it happened, even though pundits like Graeme Souness likened it to an "assault".
The Football Association yesterday confirmed that Pickford will not face any retrospective disciplinary action, a ruling that will incense Liverpool as van Dijk may potentially be out for the rest of the season.
While the Reds have not given a timeline on his recovery period, Carragher believes it is imperative that manager Jurgen Klopp signs another centre-back in January, given that the transfer window has already closed.
"The big question you're looking at now is, can Liverpool win the league without van Dijk there? I think it blows the title race wide open," the former Liverpool defender, who played at Anfield from 1996 to 2013, told Sky Sports.
"I still felt at the start of this season Liverpool were the team to beat. With van Dijk out for what looks like the whole season, it's going to be all on for Liverpool.
"Liverpool have to go into the market in January and not just because of van Dijk's injury. They were weak in that area anyway. They lost (Dejan) Lovren before the start of the season... others in those positions are injury prone."
Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy agreed, describing van Dijk as the best centre-back in the world and claimed Liverpool would be more vulnerable without him.
"(Midfielder) Fabinho can drop in there if (Joel) Matip and (Joe) Gomez are struggling but beyond that, there's not much there," he told the BBC. "They've got to get through to January without him."
Dutch captain van Dijk said in a statement on social media that he was hoping to make a quick return.
"In football and in life, I believe everything happens for a reason and it's important to try and keep level-headed whether going though the highs or the lows," he added.
Since joining in January 2018, the 2018-19 Professional Footballers' Association Players' Player of the Year has had a transformative effect on Liverpool, missing only one Premier League game and playing the last two full seasons.
In his 95 Premier League starts, Jurgen Klopp's men have let in just 78 goals and recorded 44 clean sheets, whereas in the 95 games before his debut, they conceded 117 goals with 29 clean sheets.