Van Dijk among fitness boosts as Liverpool begin preparations for City clash

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool and Teemu Pukki of Norwich in action during the Premier League match at

Virgil van Dijk holds off Norwich striker Teemu Pukki during Liverpool's 4-1 win on the opening day of 2019-20 - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Liverpool have been given a quadruple fitness boost as they step up pre-season ahead of their Premier League opener at Norwich City, with star defender Virgil van Dijk involved after his long-term knee injury.

The Reds have a 34-man squad in Austria for a training camp and have friendlies lined up against Austrian second-tier side Wacker Innsbruck as well as German top-tier sides Stuttgart, Mainz and Hertha Berlin.

Among the players involved on the first day of training were four defenders who finished last season injured, with England internationals Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez alongside van Dijk and Joel Matip.

The return of van Dijk is of particular importance, having missed the vast majority of the previous campaign as Liverpool's title defence ended in third place after an initially shaky start. The Holland international won a host of awards during the 2019-20 title triumph, being named the best player by Uefa, the Premier League and the PFA, as well as finishing second behind Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi.

Today marks exactly a month until the Reds are due to pitch up at Carrow Road for a televised 5.30pm kick-off against the newly-promoted Canaries.

Star names including Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are involved in Austria but Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara only finished their international duty in the past week and will make a belated start to pre-season.

Klopp told his club's website: “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.

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"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.

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“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.”

Alexander-Arnold had to pull out of the England squad ahead of the Euros with a thigh injury, Cameroon centre-back Matip saw his campaign end in January thanks to ankle ligament damage and Gomez missed the majority of the season with a knee injury.

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