Virgil previews Hapoel showdown
Southampton’s UEFA Europa League group stage campaign comes down to a winner-takes-all showdown at St Mary’s this week – and Virgil van Dijk is not ready for the adventure to come to an end yet.
Saints host Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Thursday night, with the teams level on points and fighting for second place in Group K – a position which would see them through to the knockout stages.
with the quality we have, i think we have a chance to go far in the competition.virgil van dijk
A 0-0 draw or a win will see Claude Puel’s men go through, while a score draw or a victory for the Israeli side will put them into the last 32.
"It's going to be massive game, obviously,” said van Dijk. “We are all looking forward to it.
“We've made it a bit difficult for ourselves with the away results we had this year in the Europa League, but I'm very confident that we can get a good result and hopefully go through to the next rounds.”
While there is a danger that Southampton’s European journey could come to a halt on Thursday, van Dijk believes it has the potential to go on much further.
"With the quality we have in the team I think we have a chance to go far in the competition,” he said.
“Obviously, we've had some good games and bad games, but I think in every game we've had chances to win.
we want to go through, and we need to show that from the first minute to the last.virgil van dijk
“We need to be focused on Thursday. It's going to be a tough game, we know that having played them away. They're a good opponent, they're physical as well, so we need to be prepared, but I'm confident.
"It's going to be a different game without their fans. I think their fans played a big part over there. We want to go through and we need to show that from the first minute until the last. The fans are going to be behind us, and I think that's very important as well.”
Van Dijk, who has captained the team in their five group matches so far, has been able to sense just how much the experience has meant to those supporters.
"It has been special,” he said of the atmospheres they have created in the two home European games so far.
“For all the Saints fans out there it's been special to see their club – our club – playing in the Europa League and I'm very happy to be a part of it and just enjoying every day.”
Having not been able to get the fans an away win in Europe yet, van Dijk is keen to make sure the players get through and give themselves another chance to reward the incredible travelling support they have seen.
"Every game so far the away support has been brilliant, even in Israel,” he said. “Obviously, we didn't reward them with a win, but I think it says a lot that they come all the way to support us and that they will always be there.”