Jurgen Klopp revealed Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have looked “really good” in pre-season training with Liverpool, though made clear the need for patience over the returning duo.
Van Dijk and fellow centre-back Gomez were long-term absentees during the Reds’ unsuccessful title defence in the 2020-21 campaign, making a combined total of just 12 Premier League appearances.
Both are closing in on a comeback but Klopp insisted after the 1-0 friendly win over Mainz on Friday that neither are likely to feature in the next fixture, which sees Liverpool take on Hertha Berlin.
Asked by the club’s official website if the defenders could play next Thursday, he replied: “Yeah, it would still be a surprise, unfortunately. 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, they don’t do too much and stuff like this.
“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.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 23, 2021
Liverpool recorded a first win during pre-season action thanks to a late own goal against Mainz, Luca Kilian turning Owen Beck’s cross into the net in the 86th minute.
Klopp had included a host of first-team regulars in his starting XI, which saw Harvey Elliott utilised in a midfield role, before a much younger line-up were introduced after half-time.
A number of the squad remain absent following their exertions at Euro 2020 and the Copa America, though Scotland captain Andy Robertson has joined up with his team-mates in Austria.
“I am happy about a lot of situations I saw,” the Liverpool boss said of the game against Mainz.
“I saw in the first half some really good football where we came through, we passed, we passed the ball quite quickly, quick enough against a good, organised side, a deep-defending side and this kind of stuff. It was far away from being perfect, but it is absolutely okay.
“Second half I saw the boys, the kids, fought for a result and they got it. They forced it and I am happy about that.”