LONDON • Liverpool were left fearing the worst on Saturday amid speculation that Virgil van Dijk could miss the rest of the season.
The club-record signing underwent scans on his right knee and is suspected to have suffered a cruciate ligament injury following a horror challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during Saturday's 2-2 Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park.
The 29-year-old left hospital on crutches, with beIN Sports pundit and former Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong claiming the centre-back could be out "for 7-8 months".
Liverpool have yet to state the severity of the injury, although manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed the early prognosis was "not good".
He said: "It's not good. Virgil plays with pain but he couldn't play on. Not good."
The setback is a huge blow to the champions, who have conceded 13 goals in their five league games this season. They conceded as many after 15 games last campaign.
Thirteen goals is also the most the Reds have let in after five league games since 1953-54.
Van Dijk marshalled the league's tightest defence for the past two seasons and has not missed an English top-flight game since January 2018, when he joined Liverpool from Southampton for £75 million (S$131.6 million).
The Dutchman had played every minute of his side's last 74 Premier League matches dating back to September 2018. And with No. 1 goalkeeper Alisson Becker out with a shoulder problem, Klopp will have to make adjustments after losing another defensive rock.
Klopp also has concerns over the fitness of midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who has received an apology from Everton forward Richarlison for his poor challenge.
Thiago finished the match, while Richarlison was shown a straight red card but Klopp revealed that the 29-year-old could be doubtful for their trip to Amsterdam to face Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday.
"When I left the pitch, Thiago told me in the red card situation with Richarlison he thinks he got injured," the German said. "We will see if it's true or not, but if he felt like this then we need to have a look."
Richarlison blamed his heavy lunge on "sheer over-dedication".
"Everyone who knows my background knows that I was never a violent player," the Brazil international said in a statement.
"I did not enter that dispute with the intention of hurting Thiago... I already sent a message to him apologising and I also do it here publicly. I hope he hasn't been hurt and that everything is fine."