According to Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool’s star defender is still not quite up to match fitness.
By all accounts, Liverpool’s newest defensive reinforcement Ibrahima Konaté has impressed in training and the first two preseason matches. And he paired well with veteran defender Joel Matip yesterday, keeping a clean sheet in the process.
That’s all well and good, but it’s difficult not to at least cast a glance over at the big man who is still sitting things out in the stands: Virgil van Dijk.
Of all the big injury blows Liverpool had last season, Van Dijk’s remained the most consequential. The Reds suffered in both attack and defense, which is no surprise when you lose when of the best footballers, regardless of position, on the planet.
Van Dijk’s rehabilitation is apparently going well, but he has yet to appear in either of the preseason friendlies so far. Although we’re all eager to see the best defender in the world return, he’s unlikely to feature in the next match either. And it’s the same story for his center back partner, Joe Gomez.
“Yeah, it would still be a surprise, unfortunately,” Jurgen Klopp explained, “But they look really good. Look, I think, they do everything, they play football, we keep them in training, we do the things we can do.
“We just have to be patient – we prepare for a full season, not for a pre-season game. I will not risk it for a game here, so we have to see. We have a lot of games still coming, pre-season games, but I don’t see them being involved for the next one.”
So while Kloppo did not rule out some preseason minutes for the pair of center backs returning from injury, it does not seem as if actual playing time is immediately in the cards.
It seems as if the defensive pairing we saw yesterday—Matip and Konaté—will likely be the ones we see in the opening matches of the season. Hopefully they can stay fit, allowing Van Dijk and Joe Gomez to return at their own pace, and not be forced back into action, which could slow down the already slow recovery process.