Now after Trent vs Vini, we can focus our attention on the 2nd Player Battle. This could also be an interesting watch throughout the course of the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday.
KARIM BENZEMA (REAL MADRID) VS VIRGIL VAN DIJK (LIVERPOOL)
Sensational, Karim the Dream, what a player, spectacular, unbelievable- these are a few adjectives that have been often used by the commentators, this season, to describe the 34-year-old French striker, Karim Benzema.
The Royal Whites’ one of the most experienced campaigners is twisting and turning the best defences in world football this season. Although he has a thorough knowledge of his weaknesses- not much pace, does not possess a high rated skill set- but it now seems to be a minor aspect of his game, given how much he has acquired this season.
3 to 4 years back, no one could have imagined the sight of Karim Benzema carrying a Real Madrid team. Yes! The 34-year-old has carried the side to their LaLiga title, and also in the Champions League. Scoring 2 hat tricks on the way to the final, in the knockout stages of the competition, to see 2 tough opponents out. At his age, and in any other age group, he has defined the meaning of a true striker. An all-out striker, by all means, Karim Benzema has the last dance of this season in the Royal White and hopefully, he will just add it to his stats this season.
Benzema’s season in numbers
If we talk about the overall G/A for this season, Benzema has the best across all the top 5 European leagues this season. The French Born striker has a total of 44 goals scored and another 15 assists provided, in just 45 games that he has played throughout the season. And that is 59 goals contributed in just 45 games. How?! It is so mesmerizing.
Now in the Champions League- Karim Benzema has one of the most dreamt of European campaigns so far, with a final still to play. The striker has scored 15 goals and has assisted another 2, in just 11 UCL games. Meanwhile, 10 out of his 15 goals have come in the knockout phase of the competition- equaling his former teammate, Ronaldo’s record of 10 knockout goals in a single campaign.
No doubt, he is a nightmare for any defender. According to the stats from WhoScored, Karim Benzema averages a total of 5 shots per UCL game. And that is, indeed, very high considering he possesses a static movement skill whenever he is in and around the opposition’s box.
Virgil Van Dijk
Meanwhile, he will be left hanging upfront, against a force to be reckoned with. Yes! It is, indeed, the Dutch wall- Virgil Van Dijk. I mean, did he even rupture his right anterior cruciate ligament at Everton last season?! To be honest, it does not seem to be the case. Throughout this season Van Dijk, alongside the company of Konate and Matip, has worked together and kept out the challenges from Europe’s big guns.
Not just that, he has been proving to be a nuisance whenever Liverpool are on indirect set pieces- scoring a total of 3 goals so far this season. His ball distribution has been one of the key elements for a long, and he has shown it again this season while providing 5 assists for his teammates.
To come up face-to-face against someone like Van Dijk takes a lot of inner strength to go by. It is not just a matter of 90 mins, or 120 minutes (considering the match goes into extra time, and then on penalties), not to mention what the Dutch defender has in abundance- his pace, physicality and the game sense. VVD is a game reader, before anything else and that is just a boost to his already world-class abilities.
Van Dijk’s season in numbers
Liverpool’s, and arguably the World’s best defender Virgil Van Dijk has some outrageous stats this season. Given he was recovering from a ruptured ACL, the Dutchman has shunned the whole world. He has kept a total of 29 clean sheets in 50 games, so far this season. Keeping 3 clean sheets in total in the 8 UCL games he has featured in.
Going in-depth with his stats from WhoScored, Van Dijk has averaged a total of 4 clearances per UCL game so far. Along with that he has shown his game reading prowess while averaging 2.5 interceptions per game. The big centre back’s physical aspect is highlighted as he has won 4 air duels out of the total 5 in the UCL so far.
When one of the most experienced strikers in the world of football, who is playing in his prime at such an age, comes up against one of the best Defenders in the current time. It is meant to hot up. Paris will never be the same again, once these two giants take to the pitch on Saturday. Parc de Princes is about to get all heated by this battle!