Liverpool Echo journalist Paul Gorst thinks it will be ‘after the September international break’ that Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez start Premier League games for Liverpool.
Van Dijk and Gomez both made their first appearance following long-term injuries in Liverpool’s pre-season defeat to Hertha Berlin on Thursday. They were given a run-out for the final 20 minutes of the game.
Van Dijk hadn’t played since suffering a cruciate ligament injury away to Everton back in October, while it was Gomez’s first outing since the November international break when he sustained a patella tendon rupture.
Joel Matip has started the Reds’ last two friendlies alongside new £36million signing Ibrahima Konate.
Liverpool open the season away to newly-promoted Norwich City on 14 August and face Burnley and Chelsea before the season’s first international window.
Gorst believes the pair will make two more appearances in pre-season. Jurgen Klopp’s side have pencilled in two 60-minute games against Serie A side Bologna on Thursday before facing Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna at Anfield on consecutive days.
Though they are in the ‘final stages of the rehab process’, Gorst would be surprised if Van Dijk and Gomez were ‘trusted to start’ any of the first few league matches.
The partnership of Konate and Matip, if it’s needed for those early games, hardly represents a massive downgrade downgrade. Matip is world-class when fit, while Konate is a rising star signed for the type of fee you would expect to pay for a regular starter.
In an ideal world, though, the youngster would have been integrated into the starting XI more slowly as he adapts to a new league. He’s being thrown straight in at the deep end, particularly if he starts against a sure-fire title contender in the form of Chelsea.
But ultimately, Liverpool can’t afford to take any risks with their returnees, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Gorst’s assessment is spot on.
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