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Virgil van Dijk is Player of the Year even if Liverpool don't win the Premier League

Even if Liverpool fall short in their chase for the Premier League, they can thank Van Dijk for making them such genuine contenders.

The Premier League drama has yet to reach its final reel, but the stars of the show are already campaigning for the individual awards. Who are the leading nominees for football's version of the Oscars?

It seems ridiculous, but no defender has won the prestigious Footballer of the Year title, as decided by the writers, since Liverpool's Steve Nicol in 1989. That run could be ended by another Anfield man, Virgil van Dijk. His vital goal in their Champions League defeat of Bayern Munich only underlined...

 By Shaka Hislop

Power Rankings: Messi ensures Barcelona stay in first, Liverpool climb

Premier League clubs are dominating this season's Champions League, but how do they fare in Shaka Hislop's latest power rankings?
Shaka Hislop chooses not to get drawn into comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following the Argentine's 33rd La Liga hat trick.

Thanks to Lionel Messi's hat trick, Barcelona went 10 points clear in Spain at the weekend and stay at No. 1 in my Top 10!

Dropping out: 

Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV, which airs daily on ESPN+.

By the numbers: Messi's 51st hat-trick, Salah's long scoreless streak

Lionel Messi celebrates after putting Barcelona ahead 1-0 in their Champions League tie with Lyon.
Lionel Messi scored his 33rd La Liga hat-trick in the course of Barcelona's 4-1 win away to Real Betis.

There's Lionel Messi, and then there's the rest. The weekend's football in Europe seemed to suggest so, although one must put this helpful caveat: Juventus gave Cristiano Ronaldo the weekend off.

Here are the best numbers from the weekend:


33

Lionel Messi scored his 33rd La Liga hat-trick in the course of Barcelona's 4-1 win away to Real Betis, also his 45th hat-trick for Barcelona across all competitions. He also has six hat-tricks for the Argentina national team, taking his overall tally in competitive...

Liverpool continue their high-wire act, international break comes at right time for Man United

Nick Miller recaps a topsy-turvy weekend, with Premier League and FA Cup quarterfinal action serving up another football feast.

Response of the weekend

For the last few months Liverpool have, in the Premier League at least, been sprinting along a tightrope. Sometimes they've kept a straight and steady course. Sometimes they've wobbled. Sometimes they've almost fallen off only to just about right themselves.

It must be a pretty stressful business watching them. They have lain bare their deficiencies...

Liverpool go top with win at Fulham, yet their form suggests title may be beyond them

James Milner dispatched a late penalty after Virgil van Dijk's mistake had gifted Fulham an equalizer.
Virgil van Dijk and James Milner discuss the errors that led to Fulham's goal and how Milner stayed composed for the winning penalty.

LONDON -- On paper, this should have been a simple victory for Liverpool: the Premier League's most rampant three-man attack against the Premier League's most shambolic, error-prone defence.

In practice, it was considerably more complex. This turned into the archetypal Premier League test: away to relegation strugglers fighting for their lives, in a tight ground with home supporters on top of the players, in horrendous conditions that involved swirling wind, torrential rain, blasts of hailstones...

Sadio Mane scores again, Mohamed Salah frustrates as Liverpool sneak past Fulham

James Milner dispatched a late penalty after Virgil van Dijk's mistake had gifted Fulham an equalizer.
Virgil van Dijk and James Milner discuss the errors that led to Fulham's goal and how Milner stayed composed for the winning penalty.

Liverpool needed a late James Milner penalty to win a game they completely dominated from start to finish. Wastefulness in front of goal and a moment of madness at the back threatened to inflict a huge blow to their title chances, but the veteran Milner held his nerve to send Jurgen Klopp's side back to the top of the table.

Positives

The three points. Liverpool would never have forgiven themselves if they'd somehow not won this game.

Negatives

Mohamed Salah's quest for that elusive 50th goal...