Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was cautiously optimistic over the progress made by Virgil van Dijk and three other injured stars, who returned to training on Tuesday after lengthy lay-offs.
Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez have all missed most or all of 2021 due to fitness issues, with the Netherlands international inactive since October after suffering an ACL injury.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was also sidelined just before Euro 2020 with a thigh problem sustained while on international duty with England.
What was said?
“No, they aren’t [at the same level as the others], but it’s different,” Klopp signalled to Liverpool's official website when asked about the quartet.
"Let’s start with: all four look really good, I have to say. Look really good.
“Now we are in constant talks with the medical department, the fitness department, the rehab department about what is right for them today: do they have to do maybe a little bit more than the rest of the group, do they have to do a little bit less?
“So, especially Virg and Joe will not have double sessions now for the first few days with the team; they have a second session of the day but it’s with Andreas Schlumberger, with the rehab department, physiotherapy, these kinds of things.
"That’s for these two. [They] look really good. I don’t know exactly when we can make the next steps but it will happen in the next four weeks, for sure – we will get a big step forward.
“Joel looks good, absolutely, he is the closest probably to normal training and then we will see when we get him started for playing.
“Trent was a serious enough injury but now not a major one, I would say. He is close but in the moment, probably the next five or six days he has a special programme: from time to time with the team, probably from time to time by himself. But then in five or six or seven days he should be in normal team training.”
The kids are all rightGetty
As well as those recovering players, Liverpool will be without a host of stars who competed on the international front in Euro 2020 or the Copa America as they kick off their pre-season plans with a tour of Austria.
That gives a number of players from the club's youth set-up a chance to shine, and Klopp hopes they can grab the opportunity.
“[It’s] a big group here – a very youthful group but a lot of experienced players here as well,” he added. “Everything we need is here.
“Of course, the guys from the Euros and the Copa [America] are not here yet, they have a well-deserved holiday still. But we still try to use the time as good as we can to bring the young guns a little bit closer to the first team, and to bring all the other guys in the best possible shape as quick as possible.
"It will take time, we had a long break, which was absolutely needed.
“We didn’t start now immediately with the highest intensity, of course. We try to get in step by step, having the first game in a few days and these kinds of things. So, I’m really thrilled being back, to be honest.
“It was a really good holiday and since two or three weeks I could have been back already, mindset-wise. But it was not bad to have them as well. And now we are here full of energy – let’s get started.”