Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk has admitted the Reds are looking to win the Europa League, confessing they “did not deserve” a spot in this season’s Champions League.
A bitterly disappointing 2022/23 campaign saw Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2016/17, forcing Jurgen Klopp’s side to accept a place in the Europa League – a competition which brings famously gruelling travel schedules and an increased number of games.
Their campaign kicks off against Austrian side LASK on Thursday, before which Van Dijk made it clear Liverpool are looking to go all the way.
“We all wanted before the season ended last year to be in the Champions League,” he said. “That’s what we fought for but, unfortunately, we didn’t deserve it.
“What we deserved was the Europa League so we’re going to give it everything that we have – and we want to give it everything we have. We want to try to win it, but it doesn’t happen overnight so we have to work for it and that starts against LASK.”
The Europa League is the only major competition Klopp has not won during his time at Liverpool and the boss echoed Van Dijk’s desire to get his hands on the trophy.
“We are here to compete, not to give opportunities,” he told a press conference. “My first year I thought the Europa League was a bit too much for us until we got to the final. We had to fly to Russia, played on a frozen pitch in Sion.
“That was a different squad. We were not ready and we came through somehow. I don’t think we were exceptional until the quarter-final, semi-final.
“It is a different time, a different team. We are better prepared. We enjoy it more to be here because we had no clue at that time what to expect.
“We have to be motivated and we are excited to play in the Europa League. I didn’t watch the Champions League [this week], I didn’t miss the anthem.