With Joël Matip and Ibrahima Konaté partnering in defence in Liverpool’s last pre-season friendly against Mainz on Friday, the Reds already have more fit senior centre halves than they did for much of their injury ravaged 2020-21 season.
Now, they could be joined by Virgil van Dijk, with Jürgen Klopp suggesting the Dutch colossus could be ready for a bit of live match action in the Reds’ next game—though the Liverpool manager doesn’t want anyone getting too far ahead of themselves.
“There is the opportunity that Virgil could play a few minutes,” Klopp said when asked about the possibility of Virgil van Dijk returning from injury against Hertha Berlin on Thursday. “He looks really good in training. He looks ready and we will see.”
Twenty minutes on Thursday and then perhaps a larger role in one of the final friendlies of pre-season after Liverpool depart their Austrian training camp and return to England ahead of the first match of the Premier League season.
There will also likely be a return to action in that final pre-season period for Joe Gomez, though in both the cases Klopp continues to stress the goal is to get them 100% fit with an eye to the longer term rather than to get them fit for the start of the season.
“If you see the games now as part of their rehab training, that makes sense,” the manager added. “Joeyis very close. There is no race between the two of them—they had different injuries and stuff like this, but very close.
“If Virgil can play now 20 then probably Joey can in the game after. In training they both look really good. I think from time to time there are some pictures of them from training sessions and everyone can see how good it looks, but there is no rush for us.
“It is not about they now need five pre-season games to be ready for the start or whatever. It is a long season and we prepare them after these very, very serious injuries for the rest of their careers and not for the first game of the season.”