Jamaal Lascelles has spoken honestly about Virgil van Dijk before Liverpool-Newcastle

Watford FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Forget defenders, Virgil van Dijk has arguably been the Premier League's best player this season.

There's still five months of the campaign to go and plenty can change, but no football fan can deny the Liverpool defender's impact since leaving Southampton in January.

A once rickety Liverpool back four has been transformed into the most formidable defence in the league, with Van Dijk not only proving almost unbeatable but he's improving those around him.

The likes of Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren have all raised their game in his presence, allowing Liverpool to hoover up clean-sheets in their title charge.

As a result, the Reds were able to enjoy Christmas Day from the comfort of first place and with an unexpectedly large advantage over Manchester City, who surprisingly lost to Crystal Palace.

Liverpool vs Newcastle

And their next challenge looked a reasonably simple one, with Jurgen Klopp's men welcoming a struggling Newcastle United under their former boss Rafael Benitez.

The Magpies have started to recover wins and points in recent weeks, but are still backed to struggle badly during their trip to Merseyside.

Every member of the travelling team will be aware of the challenge they face and that includes trying to barge their way past Van Dijk and co.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Lascelles' verdict on Van Dijk

It's a task that Newcastle's Jamaal Lascelles knows will be incredibly tough and in the build-up to the game, he's given a remarkably honest verdict on Van Dijk to the Evening Chronicle.

"Van Dijk is the best defender in the world. Every centre-half looks up to him and thinks he has got everything," Lascelles lauded.

"People thought it was a high price tag but, since he moved to Liverpool, he has shown he is worth every penny.

"Pretty much every centre-half will look at him and think: 'He has got it all.' He is good on the ball, strong, tall, and he is leader. Whoever plays next to him, he will make them look good too.

"So he is one of the best in the world. I hate talking about other players but he is. Hopefully I can score one over him on Boxing Day, though."

Well, it's pretty hard to argue with that.

From one central defender to another, it's clear that Lascelles has so much respect for Van Dijk and doesn't mind giving him a confidence boost before they go head-to-head.

Newcastle United v Fulham FC - Premier League

Say what you like about the form of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos over longer periods of time, it's become undeniable that Van Dijk is the world's best on current form.

The true test will be whether he can maintain that same form at Liverpool and, above everything else, inspire them to the trophies that have evaded Klopp so far.

As far as Liverpool fans are concerned: more of the same, Virgil.

Do you think Van Dijk is the world's best defender right now? Have your say in the comments section below.

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