Van Dijk returns but Liverpool casaulty list continues to grow
Jürgen Klopp hinted that Virgil van Dijk could return to the starting XI after a six-week absence as Liverpool travel to Newcastle this weekend.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp says Virgil van Dijk looks ready to return to first team action this weekend as the Reds are guests at Newcastle in Saturday’s early evening kick-off game. The Dutch centre-back returned to full training just over a week ago, having spent the past six weeks out recovering from the hamstring injury he picked up during the 3-1 defeat to Brentford on 2 January. The Reds have registered just one win in the Premier League while Van Dijk has been out - Monday’s 2-0 victory over Everton in the derby, a match the skipper watched as an unused sub from the bench.
Liverpool’s Premier League results without Van Dijk
Joel Matip and Joe Gomez have formed Liverpool’s centre-back partnership in the meantime, but one of them, most likely the former, could make way if Van Dijk returns to the XI at St James Park. “I think so,” Klopp told reporters, “Yesterday he looked absolutely ready. I think [in today’s session] he will look the same, and we will then make a decision.”
But just as one player leaves the casualty room, another one enters it. Summer signing Calvin Ramsay underwent surgery this week and will likely miss the remainder of the campaign. While no further details of the young Scottish right-back’s operation have been disclosed, it is believed that club medical staff discovered a double stress fracture affecting his back. The teenage defender’s season could well be over before it even started - he was signed to provide an alternative to Trent Alexander-Arnold but has made just two appearances with the senior side - three minutes against Napoli in the Champions League and the full 90 minutes in the EFL Carabao Cup tie against Derby.
Joining him on the sidelines are Ibrahima Konaté, Luis Díaz and Thiago Alcântara, all of whom will miss the Newcastle trip as Klopp confirmed in today’s press conference: “Ibou, not yet. Luis, not yet. But that’s it pretty much, nothing happened on the injury side - Thiago, is unavailable, Calvin, had surgery, not available. But that’s it”.
Victory on Saturday would allow Klopp’s men to close the gap on fourth-placed Newcastle to six points with a game in hand. Liverpool go into the game ninth on 32 points, nine points adrift of Eddie Howe’s side, who have lost just one league game all season – curiously to tomorrow’s rivals, a 2-1 defeat at Anfield on 31 August.
“This is a massive game,” Klopp said. “If you want to reach something this season, we have to chase everybody, especially those who are ahead of us in the table. It will never be easy, but we have to try. It’ll be tough. Newcastle are the best defence in the league, lost just once to us, we needed a late goal. They are very consistent and that is the first step to success. Eddie Howe has done an exceptional job, absolutely exceptional. The financial possibilities they have, or will have, are exceptional, but it is not because of that, not at all. He arrived in a difficult situation, they stayed comfortably in the league and now the team is unrecognisable. He’s turned them around, and they are a proper threat.”
Liverpool are seven points off the last European qualification berth but on top of getting a result against this weekend, Klopp will be equally as keen that his team don’t suffer any more injury setbacks ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Champions League Last 16 first leg clash against Real Madrid. Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota are both back from injury but have yet to return to the starting line-up.