EPL

Van Dijk still 'quite a way' from joining team training, accepts Klopp

By Sports Desk April 30, 2021

Jurgen Klopp has seemingly dented Liverpool fans' hopes of seeing Virgil van Dijk in action again this season after acknowledging he is still "quite a way" from returning to first-team training.

Van Dijk has missed much of the season having suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Everton in October, ruling him out ever since.

His was just one of numerous defensive injury issues Liverpool have had to contend with this season, and it has subsequently wreaked havoc with their season as they go into Sunday's trip to Old Trafford against Manchester United four points adrift of fourth.

Van Dijk's leadership and imperious attributes made him a huge part of the Reds' Premier League title triumph last season, playing all 38 matches.

Only one defender in the league bettered his 191 aerial wins, he attempted – and completed – more passes than any of them and Trent Alexander-Arnold was the sole defensive player to have more than his 3,624 touches of the ball.

His excellence did not only help keep them solid at the back but his influence stretched to their wider philosophy on the ball as well, yet they have been without that for most of 2020-21.

And, despite videos of Van Dijk running emerging on social media on Thursday, Klopp is urging fans not to get over-excited.

"I don't have enough English words to say the same thing that often," Klopp told reporters. "Yes, he is running like Hendo [Jordan Henderson], Joe [Gomez] and Joel [Matip], that's all good. Rehab always starts with straight-line running.

"There's a lot of things to come. You go through a lot of steps until you are finally ready to join team training. They are all quite a way.

"Nobody told me, fasten your seatbelt, the boys will be ready and in team training next week, but they are in a good way."

Sunday's meeting with bitter rivals United comes at a potentially pivotal moment, with the Red Devils still hopeful of pushing Manchester City all the way in the title race and Klopp's men needing a boost to their top-four hopes.

Although United were in action as recently as Thursday, beating Roma 6-2 in their Europa League semi-final first leg, Klopp doubts Liverpool can count on much of an advantage in terms of freshness.

"Whatever situation you are in, when you're a Liverpool player or manager, this is the game," he continued.

"Is it the best place to go after watching them score five in one half? I don't know. A lot of things can happen, we just make sure we are ready for it.

"They looked pretty good last night and we have to be ready but we have trained well this week. We will have the right legs to go and see what we can make of it.

"[Marcus] Rashford, [Mason] Greenwood, [Paul] Pogba played a good game last night. Whoever we play, they cannot and won't make massive changes. It's tough but we've had these types of fixtures in other seasons, so it's just a fight. We have to fight.

"When you play Thursday then Sunday… Man United have got used to it but it doesn't make it better. It's a tough challenge for them.

"Today is recovery, tomorrow second recovery and then they play. No chance to change things but I don't think they want to really at the moment.

"It will be a tough game, intense. We saw last night – they are good! Especially when you let them play.

"They were flying. I am pretty sure United still feel they have a chance [for the title]. Both teams have to win it which is a good recipe for the game."

Related items

  • Juventus-bound Kostic leaves Frankfurt a hero, says Glasner Juventus-bound Kostic leaves Frankfurt a hero, says Glasner

    Oliver Glasner is disappointed to see Filip Kostic leave Eintracht Frankfurt, but is happy that the Juventus-bound winger will leave the club a hero.

    Kostic looks set to have played his last match for Frankfurt, with the versatile winger having been left out of the Bundesliga side's squad to face Real Madrid in the Super Cup on Wednesday.

    Since he signed for Frankfurt from Hamburg in 2018, Kostic has played more games (167) and started more matches (161) than any other player for the club in all competitions.

    His 30 goals trails only Andre Silva (45) and Luka Jovic (31), while he is way clear in terms of assists (56) and chances created (420), with 269 of them coming from open play.

    Indeed, Kostic's tally of 1,702 passes played into the opposition's box, including crosses, is almost 1,300 more than second-best Daichi Kamada.

    Glasner knows Kostic, who has excelled as a wing-back, will be a huge miss as he explained why he feels the move is bittersweet.

    "Today it's as if I'm laughing and crying," Glasner told a news conference at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium. "Filip left his mark on our attack, it's never nice to lose such a player.

    "It definitely weakens us, but I also have this laugh, thinking about how the season started last year with Filip when he went on strike and didn't want to play.

    "I had a lot of conversations with him about playing 100 per cent for the team. I asked him that when he left Frankfurt, to please leave as a hero, and now he's leaving as a hero, he was the player of the year and he won the Europa League. I'm really happy for him, but yes it's sad [that he is leaving]."

    Glasner acknowledged he was surprised at how swiftly Kostic's move, which has been speculated on for weeks, transpired between Frankfurt's 6-1 defeat to Bayern Munich on Saturday and Wednesday's encounter with Champions League winners Madrid.

    As such, he suggested Frankfurt's system will not change for upcoming games, but that it may be open to tweaks over the coming weeks.

    "[On Monday] it became more and more clear that Filip could leave. You won't see a big system change [against Madrid] but it is possible we change things in the next weeks or months, that is the job of the coach, to find the best system," he added.

    "I didn't maybe expect it to be so quick. I had a feeling, even after the Bayern match, that he would play. Well, this dream was broken.

    "But every time someone leaves it's an opportunity and I prefer to see the opportunities, not what is missing. It will be an opportunity for other players. It's not like it's a complete shock, the club is prepared and the transfer window is still open."

    Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp echoed Glasner's sentiment, but was confident his team-mates have not been shaken by Kostic's departure.

    Trapp said: "The topic of Filip, we've had it every year at the beginning of the season. It's sad, Filip did something historic for the club, did a lot with the club, he's leaving as a hero who was a big part of this achievement.

    "But it's part of football, part of businesses. We have a team capable of showing good performances without Filip, but it's nothing that shocked us or has shaken us after the speculation of the last weeks. It's a departure that hurts but nothing that will shake us too much."

  • Serena to retire: The remarkable stats, facts and figures that highlight Williams' legacy Serena to retire: The remarkable stats, facts and figures that highlight Williams' legacy

    Serena Williams' long and illustrious tennis career is drawing to a close after the American confirmed on Tuesday that the countdown has begun.

    Following a long piece in Vogue, Williams wrote of her plan to "move in a different direction" after "these next few weeks", suggesting the US Open – which begins in late August – will be her last outing.

    Thanks to her success and brilliance on the court, Williams has become synonymous with tennis and is regarded by many as the greatest the women's sport has ever seen.

    Yet, her seemingly imminent retirement cannot be seen as a shock. At the age of 40, Williams has persisted with tennis far longer than most do, and that is testament to her quality and enduring desire for success.

    With Williams now reaching the end, Stats Perform takes a look at the key facts, stats and figures of her career; in other words, Serena's remarkable legacy.

    Twenty-three… and counting?

    Of course, the headline fact for Williams' career is her grand slam titles count.

    She has won 23, which is more than anyone else in the Open era.

    But she's still got one target left: matching Margaret Court. The Australian's 24 grand slam successes include nine won before the Open era began in 1968, though her overall total has been the benchmark ever since she claimed her final crown at the US Open in 1975.

    Clearly, victory for Williams at Flushing Meadows would be the perfect farewell.

    The finals hurdle

    Even if Williams only reaches the championship match next month, she'll still be equalling a different record.

    Assuming she does compete in Queens, Williams heads into the US Open having played in 33 grand slam finals, one more than Martina Navratilova.

    But Chris Evert (34) sits out in front, and that record will remain hers for many, many years if Williams cannot reach the finale at Flushing Meadows.

    Top of the pile

    It's been a while now since Williams was last the highest-ranked player in the world, but in a way that only further highlights how remarkable her career has been.

    She's spent 319 weeks ranked as world number one, which is behind only Steffi Graf (377) and Navratilova (332).

    While many might have expected Williams to have been top of the pile for even longer, it's worth remembering how she's spent time out due to injuries and pregnancy, with her general involvement in top-level tennis decreasing after 2014 when she played 16 tournaments – in 2016 that halved to eight, and during no year since has she played in more.

    Additionally, some will also be surprised to learn she actually only finished the year as the top-ranked female player five times. Nevertheless, that's still third to only Graf (eight) and Navratilova (seven).

    Go hard or go home

    Such has been Williams' quality, she was always considered a threat regardless of the surface – she's won each grand slam at least three times.

    But there's no denying she was at her most lethal on hard courts.

    She has won 48 WTA Tour-level titles on hard courts, which is 11 more than anyone else (Graf) in the Open era.

    Those 48 come from a grand total of 73 across all surfaces, leaving her ranked fifth behind Navratilova (167), Evert (157), Graf (107) and Court (92).

    Surface to say…

    Williams' comfort on hard courts goes even further than that.

    She's won 539 matches on the surface, making her one of just two female players to surpass 500 victories on one specific ground type.

    Navratilova (600 on carpet) is the only other player to achieve the feat, with Serena's sister Venus (498 on hard) the closest to the 23-time grand slam champion.

    The grass is greener

    Despite that unrivalled excellence, hard courts may not be the surface many feel to be most synonymous with Williams, however.

    Wimbledon is the tournament that would appear to be her favourite.

    She's reached the final at SW19 11 times. Only Navratilova can better that record for the most finals at one tournament – though it's worth saying she contested the WTA Finals and Chicago 14 times each, Eastbourne 13 times and 12 at Wimbledon.

  • Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale out for season after fracturing wrist in bicycle accident Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale out for season after fracturing wrist in bicycle accident

    Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale will miss the remainder of the season due to a fractured right wrist sustained during a bicycle accident on Saturday.

    The oft-injured left-hander underwent surgery on Monday, and the team said he is expected to be ready for the start of spring training in 2023.

    Sale was already on the injured list and hoped to pitch later in the season after sustaining a broken left pinkie on July 17 against the New York Yankees when he was hit by a line drive in the first inning.

    That outing was just Sale's second start of the season after recovering from a fractured rib sustained while working out during the Major League Baseball lockout.

    Sale signed a five-year, $145million contract extension with Boston in 2019, but he has pitched a combined 48 1/3 innings since the end of that campaign.

    The seven-time All-Star missed the pandemic-shortened 2020 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery before making his 2021 debut on August 14, going 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA in nine starts.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.