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.

Liverpool defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez made their long-awaited returns from injury as substitutes in a 4-3 friendly loss against Hertha Berlin on Thursday.

Van Dijk had not featured since a clash with Jordan Pickford in October's Merseyside derby left him needing anterior cruciate ligament surgery on his right leg.

Centre-back partner Gomez had experienced a similar spell on the sidelines, having also suffered a knee injury.

Jurgen Klopp eased the pair back into action, bringing them on for 20-minute cameos in the Reds' final pre-season game in Austria.

Liverpool may well have been grateful for the defensive pairing earlier, given they fell two goals behind courtesy of strikes from Santiago Ascacibar and Suat Serdar.

Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino restored parity before Stevan Jovetic's brace gave Hertha a two-goal advantage once again.

Gomez was cautioned before Netherlands captain Van Dijk saw his header saved, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finished for Liverpool's third following up.

Diogo Jota and Andrew Robertson also appeared for the first time in pre-season as they both came off the bench for the Reds.

Speaking to LFCTV before Thursday's clash, Klopp confirmed that Liverpool will take on Bologna in two hour-long friendlies at a training camp in France.

"It’s now the last game in Austria, then we go to France, we have two 60-minute games against Bologna there," Klopp said.

"Then we get home – finally, Anfield is calling! We’re getting closer. The season is not too far away anymore, so we should be better prepared."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has confirmed centre-back Virgil van Dijk is in contention to make his long-awaited return from injury in Thursday's pre-season friendly with Hertha Berlin.

Van Dijk appeared just five times for the Reds in the Premier League last season and missed the Netherlands' Euro 2020 campaign due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Everton in October.

The 30-year-old was included as part of Liverpool's squad for their warm-weather training camp in Austria this month, but he was not used in last week's 1-0 win over Mainz and Klopp made clear he would not rush the defender back.

However, the Liverpool boss is now ready to give Van Dijk some minutes at Tivoli Stadion, while fellow centre-back Joe Gomez – who has not featured since injuring his knee while on England duty last November – is also closing in on a return.

"I hope, I am not sure, there is the opportunity Virgil could play a few minutes. He looks really good in training and maybe we can bring him in, but I need to have some final conversations. He looks ready and we'll see," Klopp told Liverpool's website.

"If you see the games now as part of their rehab training, that makes sense. Joe is very close. There is no race between the two of them; they had different injuries and stuff like this, but he is very close.

"If Virgil can play now 20 then probably Joey can in the game after. We will see. In training they both look really good.

"I think from time to time there are some pictures of them from training sessions and everyone can see how good it looks, but there is no rush for us. 

"It is not about they now need five pre-season games to be ready for the start or whatever. It is a long season and we prepare them after these very, very serious injuries for the rest of their careers and not for the first game of the season.

"Losing a little bit of patience for them to return as a supporter or as a coach even is not bad, it just means they were pretty good and we want them to be back in the team."

The imminent return of Van Dijk is a major boost for Liverpool, who sorely missed the Dutchman's leadership and defensive attributes last season, having played every match in their successful 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

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

Liverpool won 81.4 per cent of the 43 Premier League matches Van Dijk played between August 2019 and his injury, but that fell to just 51.5 per cent between October and the end of the season when he was out of the team.

Van Dijk is not the only player in line to return to the Liverpool side this week, with Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota set to feature against Bundesliga side Hertha.

Robertson and Jota represented Scotland and Portugal respectively at Euro 2020, but both players linked up with their club colleagues last week and are now deemed ready to feature in pre-season action.

"They will have minutes, that's the plan. They obviously trained completely normal all the time now and we try to involve them," Klopp said.

Liverpool also have friendlies against Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna to come before beginning their Premier League campaign against Norwich City on August 14, so Klopp will continue to rotate his side during the upcoming matches.

"Some of the players are ready for 60 minutes. It will be hard for them definitely, but it means then others play 30 minutes and stuff like this, or even maybe 20 minutes and these kind of things," he said.

"Pre-season is about trying. It's a proper, proper challenge to make all these individuals to bring them in the best possible physical shape and make us more ready or stronger as a team. 

"Unfortunately, football is not like cycling, so you don't miss it completely but the pedals and stuff like this just go away so quick that's incredible. So we have to work on that again, that's what we do.

"Today is a really tough [double session]. I like it, the players probably sleep now already and that would be better because this afternoon it would be really hard."

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 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."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has offered an update on the fitness of injured quartet Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold with the latter a week from resuming full training.

Alexander-Arnold missed Euro 2020 after suffering a quad injury on the eve of the tournament and is facing a race against time to be fully fit for the start of the 2021-22 Premier League season.

Liverpool commences its Premier League campaign away to Norwich City on August 14.

“Trent was a serious enough injury but now not a major one, I would say," Klopp said. "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.”

Liverpool had a defensive crisis in 2020-21 losing van Dijk, Gomez and Matip to long-term injuries but have added French centre-back Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig this off-season.

Netherlands international defender van Dijk has not played since October when he suffered an ACL injury.

Gomez has been sidelined since he underwent knee surgery in November while Cameroonian defender Matip has not played since suffering an ankle ligament injury in January.

The injured trio along with Alexander-Arnold are all with Liverpool's 34-man squad that has commenced pre-season in Austria this week.

"All four look really good, I have to say. Look really good," Klopp said.

"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.

"[They] look really good. 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.

"Joel looks good, absolutely, he is the closest probably to normal training and then we will see when we get him started for playing."

Konate has linked up with the Liverpool squad in Austria having officially become a Red on July and Klopp said he was delighted with his addition.

“He is a good guy, I knew that before," Klopp said. "Physically, because of the situation, we met now [for] the first time here – apart from the games when we played Leipzig, obviously.

“He is a good guy, he is really happy to be here. I’m really happy to have him around. He is a young boy still, unbelievably young, but experienced already. [He] played some really good stuff in the past and hopefully even better stuff in the future."

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Liverpool are "under pressure" to qualify for next season's Champions League as they look to salvage something from a difficult season.

The Reds were knocked out of this year's competition at the quarter-final stage after a goalless draw with Real Madrid at Anfield saw them lose 3-1 on aggregate.

Their exit on Wednesday ended any hopes of silverware in this campaign and they now face a battle to finish in the Premier League's top four with seven games left.

Liverpool are in sixth place, jostling with city rivals Everton along with Chelsea, Tottenham, Leicester and West Ham for the lofty finish they want.

Klopp's side head into Monday's clash with Leeds United on the back of three consecutive Premier League wins – just the second time they have strung together a trio of league wins this season.

Liverpool also boast a good recent record against the West Yorkshire club, with Leeds having won just one of their last 11 home games against the Reds in all competitions (drawn three, lost seven).

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday ahead of the trip to Elland Road, the Liverpool manager claimed his side are feeling the heat.

"Yes, we are under pressure, how everyone can imagine, in the sense that we want to finish in the top four but we don't know in the moment if we will," Klopp said.

"But we have seven games to prove that point and that's what we try.

"There are obviously two things in football that are important: one is the performance, the other is results. The last three Premier League games we won, one Champions League game we lost and one we drew.

"The one bad game we played in that spell was the Champions League game we lost, all the other games were OK or better, so that's what we have to keep doing: play our best football.

"And still you have to accept then the result because you have to finish the situations off, what we didn't do in the second leg against Real Madrid obviously, but that does not mean we will not do that forever again.

"That's the situation, just go for it. It's not only about having a response or whatever, it's just go for it, go and go and go, play your best football."

Liverpool won the reverse fixture against Leeds 4-3 on the opening day, and they have done the double over Leeds four times in the Premier League (1996-97, 1997-98, 1999-2000 and 2002-03).

Klopp said: "When you think about Leeds, it's like, 'It's uncomfortable, you have to go and do this and this and this' – exactly the same thing Leeds has to do when they think about us: 'Oh my God, how do we defend that?'

"We cannot do more actually, before a game. The way is clear – we have to win football games. The best way would be to win all the football games, but there are tough opponents and we respect that, we really respect that. 

"We see the situation we are in and we see it positively, to be honest. We are around, we have to win our games to put pressure on the other teams and stuff like this."

Klopp has no fresh injury worries ahead of the fixture and revealed positive progress in the rehabilitation of long-term injury victims Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson.

He added: "Joe is outside running now and all these kind of things, which is obviously always a big step after all injuries.

"He [Gomez] looks fine when he is running, no real reaction in the knee, which is very important. It obviously still takes time but he's in a good way. Like Virgil, Joel and Jordan are."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes it is "unlikely" Virgil van Dijk or Joe Gomez will feature at Euro 2020 this year.

Netherlands star van Dijk has been sidelined since October after suffering a serious knee injury, while England defender Gomez has been out since November due to a knee injury.

The European Championship was pushed back to this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and is set to begin on June 11.

Klopp said he did not expect van Dijk or Gomez to be ready for the tournament after their serious injuries.

"That's not my decision, but to be honest, the information I have in the moment [is] it will be unlikely," he said.

"So, not that I don't let them go because I don't want to have to do that anyway, but it's because of the extent of the injury. We all hope that they will be ready to start the pre-season with us. That's what we hope.

"And, by the way, with Joel [Matip] it's pretty much the same, he's just not qualified for the Euros but it's with him the same.

"These are really serious injuries. And it's not about now that we talk [about] which competition they can play. As far as I know – and I'm always open for positive surprises, now they all of a sudden show up in team training – but nobody told me that.

"The two of them [Gomez and Van Dijk] look in the moment better than Joel looks because he's still in his [what] looks like skiing boots. But he is here as well. Joe is not running, Virgil is already running, but this is really a tough one.

"We are completely over the moon when they are ready to train with us for the start of pre-season. About the Euros, I didn't think about it.

"I don’t know when you would have to be back that you are able to play the Euros. The week before? The day when the Euros start? I don't know. That's it. I understand maybe the need of that but we cannot make this decision and we will not.

"It's just about when they will be fit, they will be fit. That's how it is."

The Netherlands will face Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia in Group C, while England will take on Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic in Group D.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.