Liverpool news: Study shows the ONE way is Van Dijk is NOT best Premier League defender

Liverpool are currently locked in a titanic battle with Manchester City for the Premier League title and sit top by two points with four matches remaining.

The Reds have played a game more than their rivals but boast a sterner defence than Pep Guardiola’s side, having only conceded 20 goals so far.

And much of this new-found resolve stems from Virgil van Dijk, who has been a colossal presence at the heart of the Liverpool rearguard.

The Dutchman has developed a reputation as an unbeatable opponent in aerial challenges, but new data suggests Van Dijk is not the most successful header of the ball around Europe.

CIES Football Observatory have assessed the top five European leagues to identify the highest percentage of successful defensive headers so far this season.

Van Dijk only comes in third on the overall list, winning 153 aerial challenges at a rate of 84.1 per cent.

The Liverpool ace is one of six Premier League stars in the top 20 while Real Madrid and Barcelona are also represented.

Meanwhile, Hearts centre-back Christophe Berra has the best overall percentage of 86.9 across all studied leagues, winning 233 challenges and losing just 35.

Percentage of defensive aerial challenges won in 2018/19 – Big five European Leagues

20. Bernardo Espinosa (Girona) – 107 challenges won, 31 challenges lost (77.5 per cent)

19. James Tarkowski (Burnley) – 162 challenges won, 46 challenges lost (77.9 per cent)

18. Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen) – 78 challenges won, 22 challenges lost (78.0 per cent)

17. Simon Kjaer (Sevilla) – 70 challenges won, 19 challenges lost (78.7 per cent)

14 (Tied). Raphael Varane (Real Madrid) – 88 challenges won, 33 challenges lost (78.8 per cent)

14 (Tied). Gerard Pique (Barcelona) – 108 challenges won, 29 challenges lost (78.8 per cent)

14 (Tied). Sean Morrison (Cardiff City) – 123 challenges won, 33 challenges lost (78.8 per cent)

13. Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich) – 75 challenges won, 20 challenges lost (78.9 per cent)

12. Salif Sane (Schalke) – 104 challenges won, 27 challenges lost (79.4 per cent)

11. Fabian Lustenberger (Hertha Berlin) – 66 challenges won, 17 challenges lost (79.5 per cent)

10. Issa Diop (West Ham United) – 103 challenges won, 26 challenges lost (79.8 per cent)

9. Bruno Alves (Parma) – 98 challenges won, 24 challenges lost (80.3 per cent)

8. Mats Himmels (Bayern Munich) – 70 challenges won, 17 challenges lost (80.5 per cent)

7. Dimities Siovas (Leganes) – 105 challenges won, 23 challenges lost (82.0 per cent)

6. Christopher Jullien (Toulouse) – 86 challenges won, 18 challenges lost (82.7 per cent)

5. Pablo Nascimento (Bordeaux) – 68 challenges won, 14 challenges lost (82.9 per cent)

4. Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion) – 133 challenges won, 27 challenges lost (83.1 per cent)

3. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – 153 challenges won, 29 challenges lost (84.1 per cent)

2. Harry Maguire (Leicester City) – 93 challenges won, 16 challenges lost (85.3 per cent)

1. Marcelo Guedes (Lyon) – 136 challenges won, 23 challenges lost (85.5 per cent)

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