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Van Dijk’s text message to Fabinho after he replaced him in Liverpool defence

Fabinho has earned high praise for his performances standing in for Virgil van Dijk – from the Liverpool colossus himself.

The Brazilian looks set to continue his role as a makeshift centre-back when the Premier League champions continue their title defence at home to West Brom on Sunday.

Fabinho has been a rock at the heart of the Reds’ defence during the worst injury crisis of Jurgen Klopp’s reign, with first-choice centre-backs Van Dijk and Joe Gomez both on the long-term injury list.

And the 27-year-old has revealed he received Van Dijk’s seal of approval after filling in after the Dutch ace suffered an ACL injury in October.

“Virgil is the one player you don’t want or expect to be injured,” Fabinho told the Daily Mail.

Fabinho has filled in impressively for Virgil van Dijk

“Last season he played in all 38 league games. He is never tired, never injured and the one you can always rely on.

“He really is the leader and when you lose someone of those qualities it’s a great shock.

“We were just shaking our heads at the time and didn’t want to admit it was true. I remember hearing the news reports and hoping they were false.”

He added: “Immediately after his injury, he didn’t say too much but after a few games he sent me a message congratulating me and saying I was playing well. That was great to hear.”

Van Dijk praised Fabinho for his performances at centre-back

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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.

Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.

But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.

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Fabinho said he had learned a lot about playing centre-half by watching Van Dijk, adding: “I just want to be able to watch his game and pick up things I should be doing, particularly the passes he makes. I would like to do that.

“He is the best in his position so it’s important that I look to his game.”

Fabinho’s composed performances have helped Liverpool go four points clear at the top of the league, earning him comparisons to his injured team-mate – much to the amusement of his pals.

“That’s funny because some of my friends have joked about that,” he said. “Recently they sent me a montage they made. It was Virgil’s hair and my face!

“When I came in, I felt good and comfortable and over time it’s got easier. When Virgil got injured, I expected to come in as centre-back and even the other players were joking. They were saying: ‘Fabinho the defender is back, he is here’.

“I was nervous at first but I think I have grown into it.”

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