Jurgen Klopp has explained the current situation with Liverpool duo Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez amid concerns over their injury status.
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The duo both suffered serious knee injuries last season (within a few days of each other in October 2020) and despite returning for Liverpool in preseason training this summer, the duo have yet to play in any preseason friendlies.
After initially saying they won’t play on Thursday, July 29 against Hertha Berlin, Klopp has now told LFC TV that Virgil van Dijk may be available for the friendly.
That has got Liverpool fans, and everyone else, talking about how fit VVD and Gomez are and other reports suggest that Joel Matip (who missed the second half of last season through injury) and new signing Ibrahima Konate will be their first-choice center backs for the opening weeks of the 2021-22 season.
Here’s the latest on the situation, as Klopp spoke to Liverpool’s in-house TV station after they beat his former club Mainz 1-0 in a preseason friendly on Friday.
What did Jurgen Klopp say about Van Dijk, Gomez?
“I hope, I am not sure, that there is the opportunity that Virgil could play a few minutes. He looks really good in training and maybe we can bring [him in], but I need to have some final conversations. He looks ready and we will see,” Klopp said.
“If you see the games now as part of their rehab training, that makes sense. Joey is very close. There is no race between the two of them; they had different injuries and stuff like this, but [he is] very close. If Virgil can play now 20 then probably Joey can in the game after. We will see. 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. Losing a little bit of patience for them to return as a supporter or as a coach even is not bad, it just means they were pretty good and we want them to be back in the team.”
This is surely just Klopp being sensible and limiting any risk for Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
And as he says, it is smart to do that, even if Liverpool fans are calling for the duo to be played now and are maybe freaking out a little that they are yet to fully recover.
Liverpool suffered massively without them, then Matip, and only just scraped into the top four of the Premier League as fourth and fifth choice center backs Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams formed a solid enough partnership late in the season.
This is the smart thing to do
With Konate on board and Matip’s injury less serious than the ones Van Dijk and Gomez suffered, Klopp should continue to manage this situation the best way he sees fit. He’s not the type of character who will crumble and throw both players in just because others want him to rush it.
Quite the opposite is true as the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita have all suffered with long-term (and persistent) injuries during Klopp’s time in charge of Liverpool and he only reintroduced them when they were fully fit and is always cautious.
With his high-pressing style of play and incredible physical demands, keeping Van Dijk and Gomez out until they are 100 percent ready is the correct move.
Then again, if Liverpool lose a few games early in the season, we all know the kind of questions Klopp will be getting from all angles…