Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson is facing three months on the sidelines with manager Jurgen Klopp admitting the defender’s pending shoulder surgery will be “a big loss” for the club.

The Scotland captain sustained the problem on international duty against Spain but having been assessed on his return to Merseyside the club have decided an operation is the best solution – even if it means the 29-year-old faces a lengthy absence.

“There is a little chance we could try without but talking to pretty much all experts it looks like surgery will be the best thing, especially in the long term definitely, and that means he is out for a while,” said Klopp.

“You only see the real extent of injury when you have a look into it, like properly open (up the shoulder) and fix it – but my experience tells me around about three months.

“That is a shoulder (injury), usually not a lot of times you say it was earlier but Robbo is a quick healer, that is true.

“In this specific case we have to make sure the shoulder structure is stable, because the moment the boy starts all the normal contact stuff again the player has to be ready for that.

“I don’t exactly when, but next Wednesday (or whenever he has the operation) we will know more.

“In my experience you can train pretty quickly again but not football-specific because you have to be careful of challenges and all these kind of things so he will be out for a while. It is a big loss.”

Robertson has played every minute of all eight Premier League matches this season and has been ultra-reliable for Klopp, having missed just five matches in 275 appearances in more than six years for the club.

It means the Scot’s back-up Kostas Tsimikas, who has made 65 appearances in just over three seasons and many of those as a substitute, could make only his second appearance in a Merseyside derby on Saturday.

Other alternatives are the predominantly right-sided Joe Gomez, who has more experience, and 19-year-old Luke Chambers, whose only first team appearance was as an 89th-minute substitute in last month’s Carabao Cup win over Leicester.

On the significance of Tsimikas being ready, Klopp added: “It always was like this.

“Thank God it is not only Kostas we have for that because for the amount of games we have we would already be a bit short.

“But we have Joe Gomez who can play the position, Luke Chambers and other young boys who show up in training quite frequently.

“There is a lot of talent in there so you need options and that is clear. Kostas is definitely the most experienced in the position but he cannot play all the games from now on so we need other options as well and we have to make sure we make all of them.”

Klopp could also field a midfield with no derby experience – Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo all arrived in the summer – but the Reds boss does not believe that is a concern.

“It is a special game no doubt but a high pressure game and they all played them. Macca played the World Cup with Argentina, Dom played Serbia recently in a super-important, high-pressure game so they are all used to the kind of game,” he added.

“The exact game, not, but I cannot show them a movie of derbies and say that is how they should be. I don’t think we have to make it too big.”

Liverpool have lost just one of the last 18 matches against their closest rivals – the behind-closed-doors one at Anfield in the Covid era in February 2021 – but Klopp is not thinking about their record.

“It is rather uncomfortable if you tell me about my good record because it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“We try to make sure we don’t think about these things but make sure we are ready, we understand the importance of the game and can’t remember one moment when I said ‘weekend derby’ and enjoyed this thought.”

Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool must be “lucky” with the availability of their centre-backs this season as he hinted he was unlikely to add to his options before the transfer deadline.

Ibrahima Konate is a doubt for Sunday afternoon’s trip to Newcastle because of a muscular problem and Joe Gomez or Joel Matip could instead partner Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of the Reds’ defence.

Nat Phillips is another alternative but Klopp is well aware that a shortage of options and a spate of injuries could spell trouble as he had to get creative with his backline during the 2020-2021 season.

A total of 20 different combinations were used during the turbulent campaign and Klopp is keeping everything crossed that he does not have to deal with a defensive crisis in the forthcoming months.

“In an ideal world, we have six, seven, eight centre-halves and cover for absolutely everything,” the Liverpool manager said. “No, we need to be lucky with injuries, there is no doubt about that.

“I have no doubt about the quality of the boys we have. We have (academy player) Jarell Quansah, a super-talented player, available as well.

“In this moment we are covered but it is not dreamland where you can be prepared for absolutely each situation. We had to learn that in the past as well a couple of times.

“We will try to do our absolute best to have a squad for next week, a squad for us where we can react on pretty much everything. Is that possible? We will see.”

Liverpool were the only side to do the double over a Newcastle side that lost just five times in the Premier League and qualified for the Champions League last season.

Despite their rapid improvement under Eddie Howe, Newcastle are on a 13-match winless sequence against Liverpool stretching back to December 2015 – although Klopp is wary of what they will face this weekend.

He feels two of their signings in particular this summer were among the shrewdest of any team.

“Newcastle are an incredibly strong team, qualified for the Champions League, fully deserved,” Klopp said. “Super development under Eddie Howe, I have to say. Eddie is a super coach, a super manager.

“Smart business. I don’t want to miss anybody but probably the two standouts in this window: (Sandro) Tonali and (Harvey) Barnes. Really good business.

“The speed they have is really good. Newcastle, since last year at least, they don’t concede a lot but score. So that’s a proper game.”

While Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones are missing once again, Klopp will be able to call upon fellow midfielder Alexis Mac Allister after his red card in the 3-1 win over Bournemouth was overturned.

Mac Allister – signed from Brighton in the summer for £35million – was shown a straight red by referee Thomas Bramall after catching Bournemouth midfielder Ryan Christie on the foot at Anfield last weekend.

“When I saw the pictures back I was pretty sure that it’s not a red card but that doesn’t mean then immediately that our appeal will be successful,” Klopp added.

“You don’t have that a lot of times, that pretty much everybody agrees this is not a red card and should not be a red card. Harsh tackles should always be punished, I absolutely support that 100 per cent.

“But it was not a harsh tackle, it was just a touch in the situation. It was a massive relief when I heard that it is overturned. Very good news.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Carlo Ancelotti thinks their Champions League last-16 tie is over after Real Madrid trounced the Reds 5-2 at Anfield in Tuesday's first leg.

The Reds blew an early two-goal lead after Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah's early strikes to suffer the heavy defeat, which leaves them with a mountain to climb in the second leg in Madrid on March 15.

The defeat was the first time the Reds have conceded four or more goals at home in a European game.

Ancelotti insisted the tie is still live after the game despite the deficit, while Klopp remained hopeful, but conceded it was going to be tough to turn it around.

"I think Carlo thinks the tie is over – and I think it as well in the moment," Klopp told reporters. "But in three weeks... the closer you get to the game the bigger our chances become and the less likely it is the tie is over.

"Tonight, with the 5-2, they are pretty good in counter-attacking and we have to score three goals there and take some risk, so that could be a bit tricky.

"We go there, I can say it now already and try to win the game. If that is possible or not, I don't know now but that's what we will try and from there we will see."

Liverpool became the first team in Champions League history to lose by a three-goal margin after being 2-0 up.

Klopp acknowledged Eder Militao's free header from a Luka Modric set-piece straight after half-time for 3-2 shifted the momentum.

"I really thought the 3-2 had a massive impact," he said. "The 2-1 and the 2-2 not so much… my personal feeling was, 'first goal, OK, bad defending but well done as well, the second was slapstick but get over it'.

"Then the third goal directly after half-time, we didn't deal particularly well with that. We don't want to concede goals but I think if we just think about the first half, everybody's impression was, 'Wow, that was a really good first half' even when we conceded two.

"I really thought our people saw it exactly like that, they were outstanding tonight in a difficult game. The first half it was not too difficult to be positive but in the second half when it was difficult to stay positive, they were positive and I am thankful for that."

Defender Joe Gomez was replaced in the 73rd minute with an apparent injury concern, although Klopp had no clear update on his status.

"He showed a little bit of a sign but then we just made a decision," Klopp said. "Now we will see and he will get checked tomorrow."

Joe Gomez has switched his Liverpool squad number ahead of the 2022-23 season and has promised to replace any shirts bought with his previous number on.

The defender – who has found game time at his preferred centre-back position harder to come by in recent seasons due to injury and the form of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate – has worn number 12 since joining Liverpool from Charlton Athletic in 2015.

However, the 25-year-old England international has taken the number two shirt ahead of the new campaign, which for Liverpool starts on Saturday when they face Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield.

Traditionally a right-back's number in English football, the switch perhaps suggests Gomez will have to settle for playing back-up to Trent Alexander-Arnold once again this coming season, although Liverpool have also brought in promising youngster Calvin Ramsey from Aberdeen.

A club statement confirmed Gomez had offered to personally reimburse anybody that had bought a 2022-23 replica shirt printed with 'Gomez 12'.

Liverpool's number 10 shirt remains vacant for the new season after Sadio Mane's departure to Bayern Munich.

This time last year was a very different period for Virgil van Dijk, who was in the process of returning from a serious knee injury.

As a result of that setback, the Dutch defender missed the majority of the 2020-21 season, in which Liverpool struggled in their defence of the Premier League title.

However, with Van Dijk back and a new face through the door in Ibrahima Konate, who arrived from RB Leipzig, Jurgen Klopp's side were ready to mount a challenge for all the major trophies last term.

They fell narrowly short of winning an unprecedented quadruple, but still managed to secure the EFL and FA Cups, while reaching the Champions League final and finishing second in the league by just one point, boasting the joint-best defensive record alongside champions Manchester City (26 goals conceded).

Konate was eased in at Anfield by Klopp, but still made 29 appearances in all competitions during his debut campaign with the Reds, and Van Dijk has waxed lyrical about the ability and potential of the France international.

Speaking to the club's official website during a pre-season training camp in Austria, Van Dijk said: "[Konate is] a very, very good player.

"What I like the most about him is [his] will to learn each and every day as well.

"Obviously there are loads of things that can improve – and that's good because he has time, he needs the experience. In my opinion, experience is a big thing for a centre-half to learn and to take with you.

"In his case, I'm very happy to see him develop, I'm very happy to see him shine on and off the pitch, he's a fantastic character."

Konate will hope to be part of Didier Deschamps' France squad which defends the World Cup in Qatar later this year, but another Reds defender perhaps has more work to do to appear at the tournament.

Joe Gomez also missed a big chunk of the 2020-21 campaign with an injury picked up on England duty, and has not been selected for a Three Lions squad since.

The 25-year-old recently signed a new contract at Liverpool, despite only making 21 appearances last season (11 starts), several of which came at right-back as Klopp preferred Konate or Joel Matip at centre-back.

But after playing regularly alongside Gomez during Liverpool's Premier League title-winning season in 2019-20, Van Dijk was pleased to see him sign a new deal and believes he may even be England's best defender when fit.

"We spoke about it before he signed the deal and I'm just very happy that he's staying at the club, staying with me. Also, I'm happy for the club that he's signed," the former Celtic and Southampton man said.

"He is, in my opinion, [one of] if not the best English centre-back around. Obviously we've both been very unlucky with the injuries we had. His time will come again and hopefully this season he can show that."

Versatile Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has signed a new long-term contract at Anfield.

The England international has been limited by injuries in recent seasons, and his contract was due to expire in 2024.

But Gomez has committed his future to Liverpool, reportedly until 2027, and hopes "the best years are ahead of me".

"It is an unbelievable place to be; in my eyes, probably one of the best – if not the best – clubs in the world at the minute," the 25-year-old said.

"The opportunity to extend my stay here was an easy decision to make, really.

"Obviously, I have been here quite a while now, but in the grand scheme of things, I still feel young, and the best years are ahead of me. I have got more to learn and the time to do that.

"I think I have the platform here to do it, with the manager and the coaching staff around me and my team-mates, to make sure the best years are ahead."

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho resumed training on Wednesday in a boost for Jurgen Klopp ahead of the Champions League final.

The Premier League side take on Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday for the biggest prize in European club football, but it was feared Klopp could be without two of his key midfielders.

Thiago Alcantara remained absent from the AXA Training Centre after suffering an Achilles injury in Sunday's win over Wolves, but Fabinho – who has not played since sustaining a muscle strain at Aston Villa two weeks ago – was in attendance and appeared to take part in full training.

Klopp had previously expressed confidence that the Brazil international will be fit for the final.

Liverpool have had a slightly better win percentage this season in all competitions with Fabinho in the side (74.5 per cent with, 73.3 per cent without) and have conceded marginally fewer goals on average (0.7 per game with, 0.9 per game without).

Joe Gomez, who came off injured with an ankle issue in the win at Villa, was also back in training but is unlikely to feature from the off at the Stade de France having made just 11 starts for the Reds in all competitions this season.

Jurgen Klopp understands Mohamed Salah would be keen to play on the final day of the Premier League season and clinch the Golden Boot, but neither Liverpool nor the player are willing to take any risks with his fitness.

Salah sustained a groin injury in Liverpool's FA Cup final win over Chelsea last weekend and missed the midweek victory at Southampton that keeps the Reds in contention for the title.

There could yet be a double celebration for Klopp's men on Sunday, with City only one point ahead while Salah (22 goals) narrowly leads Son Heung-min (21) in the scoring charts.

But given Liverpool also have the Champions League final against Real Madrid to consider the final week, they have to be sure Salah is fit to play.

The winger – who has been nominated for the PFA Fans' Player of the Year, alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Conor Gallagher and Declan Rice – is not the cup winners' only injury concern either.

Virgil van Dijk (knee) was also injured at Wembley, while Fabinho (hamstring) hobbled out of the prior match against Aston Villa. Joe Gomez, who has a history of serious injuries, had an ankle problem at Southampton.

"Joe has good news," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's match against Wolves. "We want a reassuring further scan, but the first was like he and we thought after the game – we were lucky.

"It was a proper knock, but nothing happened. It's the leg where he was injured, so I understand 100 per cent everyone was concerned; I was, until I saw Joe's face in the dressing room, because most of the time we know best about our body.

"The result of this [second] scan is not here yet, but we don't expect anything really different. It's just about reassuring it's all fine.

"And then from there, we go. If it's fine, then it's about pain: how can he deal with pain? We'll see what Joe can do today or tomorrow, but I don't know at the moment.

"With the other boys, it looks all good. What we do with them at the weekend, I have no idea.

"I understand 100 per cent the goalscoring battle with Son Heung-min, but there is no chance we take any risk; Mo doesn't want to take any risk, there's no doubt about that.

"But it looks good, the boys made steps. We will see.

"My preferred solution would be they all could play at the weekend, for rhythm reasons, stuff like this, or at least could be on the bench and we could bring them on or not. But if not, then we take it from there. I cannot say 100 per cent."

Manchester United's search for a new permanent manager continues.

The Red Devils parted ways with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last year after an underwhelming campaign despite the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ralf Rangnick has taken over on an interim basis, buying United time to get the right man for the job.

TOP STORY - MAN UTD 'SOUND OUT' TEN HAG

Manchester United have "sounded out" Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag through intermediaries with no formal approach yet, claims Sky Sports.

Ten Hag along with current Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino are believed to be the two lead candidates for the top job at Old Trafford.

The report claims the Dutchman would be keen to speak to United if they make a formal approach.

 

ROUND-UP

- Italian champions Inter are ready to allow Alexis Sanchez to exit the club in mid-year reports Calciomercato. The 33-year-old's contract at San Siro runs until 2023 but Inter are keen to get his hefty wages off their books.

- England international Joe Gomez will seek a move away from Liverpool at the end of this season, claims 90min, as he seeks more regular game-time, having been a bit-part player this term. Leicester City, Tottenham, Newcastle United and West Ham are all interested.

- Brighton and Hove Albion are leading the race to sign Chile international Ben Brereton Diaz from promotion hopefuls Blackburn Rovers, claims TEAMtalk. Crystal Palace, Everton, Leeds United and West Ham are also interested.

- Mundo Deportivo reports that West Ham are interested in signing former Barcelona, Milan and Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu from Udinese.

- Fichajes claims Wolves are in talks with Shakhtar Donetsk's Pedrinho about a move to England, with players from Ukrainian clubs able to seek free transfers.

Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round tie with Cardiff City on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19.

The Merseyside club confirmed ahead of the game at Anfield that the players tested positive "recently" but both have already completed the required isolation period and are able to resume training.

However, neither have had enough time to prepare for the clash with the Championship side.

New signing Luis Diaz does make the squad and starts on the bench for Jurgen Klopp's men, along with the returning Harvey Elliott.

It is a particular blow to Gomez, who was expected to feature having only made 12 appearances this season, eight of which have come from the bench after recovering from a tendon injury in his left knee suffered in November 2020 that ruled him out for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has enjoyed a run in the side on the right of Liverpool's attack while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have been away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, scoring in wins against Brentford and Crystal Palace. Takumi Minamino replaces the former Arsenal man.

Diaz makes the bench after completing a move to the Reds from Porto last week, while Elliott returns to the squad for the first time since dislocating his ankle in the win against Leeds United in September.

Real Madrid saw Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos leave in the off-season.

The Spanish champions have fared well without them, leading LaLiga comfortably.

But Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to add to their backline.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID CONSIDER GOMEZ MOVE

Madrid are lining up a potential move for Liverpool defender Joe Gomez, according to the Daily Mail.

Madrid will monitor the England international defender who has recently returned to fitness ahead of an off-season move.

Los Blancos' priority after 2021-22 is their attack and landing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, but they do want to bolster their defensive options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are genuine contenders to sign Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland according to Sky Germany. Madrid, Manchester CityManchester United and PSG have been heavily linked with the Norwegian, but the Reds are in the race.

- Mundo Deportivo claims that Manchester UnitedBarcelona and Madrid are all keeping tabs on Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman.

- United forward Anthony Martial wants to join Sevilla on loan in January and will hold talks with the club, claims Sky Sports.

- Hoffenheim midfielder Florian Grillitsch is drawing interest from both Tottenham and Roma who will jostle for his services, reports Sky Germany.

- Everton will look to sign Rangers right-back Nathan Patterson again but will need to pay £10m, reports the Daily Mail.

Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp has confirmed Roberto Firmino has sustained a "serious hamstring injury" and is set for a spell on the sidelines.

Firmino was introduced at half-time in the Reds' 2-0 Champions League win over Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Wednesday, but was forced off in the 78th minute.

When the striker will return to action is not clear, but Klopp expects the Brazil international to be out for at least four weeks.

"Bobby is not good news with a serious hamstring injury, really unfortunate," Klopp told Liverpool's official website. "We don’t know exactly how long he will be out, but it will be not now after the international break directly. We have to work on that."

Klopp reiterated the significance of the 30-year-old's absence in his pre-match news conference ahead of a Premier League meeting with West Ham on Sunday:

The German boss said: "Losing Bobby Firmino is a blow. I don't think I need to say how big it is. It's a serious injury.

"We talk about weeks - more than four I consider as a serious injury. Then we have to see. Bobby is a quick healer."

Joe Gomez (calf) and Curtis Jones [eye] are also out of the Reds' trip to London, but Klopp expects both to return after the upcoming international break. 

Klopp was less sure about Naby Keita and James Milner, but hopes they will be back in action before long as they recover from thigh injuries.

"Curtis is a completely different story [to Firmino], he was very unlucky in training – he got a finger that scratched the eye," Klopp continued to Liverpool's official website. 

"I had a lot of injuries to players in my career, that was not [one]. He is on the way back but we have to see how long exactly. 

"He will be back after the international break, for sure, but in the international break we have to see when he can start doing proper stuff again. And Joey, hopefully, after the international break as well.

"We will see [about Keita and Milner]. For them, I have hope for after the international break but I don’t know exactly. We have to wait. That’s two weeks and a few days from now on, so that’s what I would really wish for but I cannot promise that. But that’s what we are working on."

Virgil van Dijk will never forget the "special" feeling of returning from injury alongside Liverpool centre-back partner Joe Gomez.

Both Van Dijk and Gomez watched much of last season from the sidelines as the Reds were hit by injury woes in their Premier League title defence.

Van Dijk had started every league game in the prior two campaigns but sustained anterior cruciate ligament damage in a challenge with Everton's Jordan Pickford in October 2020.

Gomez started alongside the Netherlands international on 22 occasions in 2019-20, with Liverpool winning 19 of those games and conceding just 17 goals, but he also suffered a knee injury while away with England last November.

However, from the date of Gomez's injury to the end of the 2020-21 season, only Manchester City (23) conceded fewer league goals than Liverpool (26), who kept 11 clean sheets in this period – behind City (17) and Chelsea (15) – as they qualified for the Champions League.

Returns for the defensive pair represent a boost all the same, though, and Van Dijk particularly enjoyed stepping back onto the pitch alongside Gomez in a friendly against Hertha Berlin.

"[It was] special," he told Liverpool's official website. "We said it to each other: we have to soak it all up, we have to take it in, enjoy it, let it make you stronger, let it make you even hungrier to stay fit.

"To be standing there at that moment, at that time, was special. I will never forget that."

Van Dijk added: "I think positivity is a very important thing, we have the quality – that is obvious. We were just very, very unlucky with injuries last year, especially in the centre-back position.

"In the end, Rhys [Williams], Nat [Phillips] and Ozan [Kabak] did a fantastic job to make sure we have at least Champions League and we [came] third.

"But we have been unlucky in some positions that made it very difficult for us as a team to play the same way and have the same intensity we normally have, so we've worked a lot on this.

"We hope – and we try – to stay fit, all of us. That's something we shouldn't take for granted, if that happens."

With their key men fit again, Liverpool are looking to get back involved in the title race, with their 69 points last term the fifth-lowest total from a defending Premier League champion.

"The standard is very high [in pre-season], we train hard, we try to get the right tactics in again and hopefully get ready for a very, very good season altogether," he said.

"It is going to be a tough one with teams that are improving all around us, trying to compete to become champions of the Premier League. So are we – we want to be up there again, go for it all and we set the base at the moment."

Jurgen Klopp says Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will be involved for Liverpool when they play Bologna on Thursday.

The Reds step up their preparations for the forthcoming Premier League season with two 60-minutes matches against the Serie A side.

The central defensive duo made their long-awaited returns from injury against Hertha Berlin last time out, playing the final 21 minutes of the 4-3 defeat.

Van Dijk had not played since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Everton in October 2020, while Gomez played his first minutes since damaging a tendon in his left knee while on international duty with England the following month.

Klopp is pleased with the progress the pair are making and is confident they can get more minutes under their belts against Bologna.

"Hopefully, yes. That's how it looks in the moment," he told the official club website. "I want to make it really clear, we push nothing. 

"We know exactly how they feel – how they really feel and not what they tell us because they obviously are desperate to play again. 

"It looks good, this morning [it was a] normal training session. Sometimes in moments, we swap Virgil and Joe a little bit so maybe the intensity doesn't get too high, but in general it looks really good. 

"How many minutes on Thursday, I don't know but there will be some minutes for sure."

Klopp may also have Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino available for selection.

All three have returned from their extended break after helping Brazil reach the Copa America final, which they lost 1-0 to Argentina.

With Liverpool launching their Premier League campaign away at Norwich City on August 14, Klopp admits the returning trio's preparation time is far from ideal.

Nevertheless, the German said they could feature against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side, who finished 12th in Serie A last term.

"The players who play international football never have enough time; that was always like this," he added.

"You never have enough time to train and stuff like this – a week, two weeks before the season.

"[The Brazilian players] will start tomorrow with training properly with us.

"Maybe on Thursday in our two 60-minute games against Bologna, we can involve them already. I don't know yet – maybe 15, 20, 30 minutes. We have to see how they look exactly."

Virgil van Dijk expressed his gratitude for the support he has received after making his return in Liverpool's 4-3 friendly defeat to Hertha Berlin.

Van Dijk made his first appearance since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the Merseyside derby last October at the Tivoli Stadion in Tirol on Thursday.

The Netherlands captain and fellow defender Joe Gomez, who had been sidelined with a knee injury since November, were introduced by Jurgen Klopp with 20 minutes to go.

Van Dijk later thanked those who had helped him on the road to recovery during his lengthy absence.

He tweeted: "285 days ago, I started on a journey back towards playing. It's hard to express how I am feeling, but it's important to me that I say I feel blessed to have had the support of so many incredible people.

"The surgeon, my physios, coaches and staff who have been with me in my corner since day one. My team-mates for giving me energy and keeping my head up.

"The fans for their love, support and encouragement. And most of all, my family because without them, I'd be nothing. Thank you. The work doesn't stop now. It's only just starting. We keep going!"

Reds boss Klopp said: "I'm not sure, 260-something days for Virgil and not much less for Joe that they didn't play football, so it's nice to have them back. It was the first step, really important."

Strikes from Santiago Ascacibar and Suat Serdar left Liverpool two goals down, but Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino restored parity.

Stevan Jovetic's brace gave Hertha a two-goal advantage once again, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring Liverpool's third goal after Van Dijk's header was saved.

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