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Goal.com - 6 hours 40 min ago
'The work doesn’t stop now' - Van Dijk sends emotional message to Liverpool fans after injury return | Goal.comVirgil van Dijk

Tom Mallows

Last Updated2 hours ago

22:02Jul 29, 2021Comments

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The Netherlands international and team-mate Joe Gomez made their long-awaited comebacks after a nine-month injury lay-off

Virgil van Dijk says “the work doesn’t stop now” in an emotional message to Liverpool fans and his team-mates after making his long-awaited return from injury.

The Netherlands international has been sidelined for nine months with a serious knee injury but finally pulled the red shirt on again as a late substitute in the Reds’ friendly clash with Hertha Berlin.

Team-mate Joe Gomez also made his comeback after a similarly long lay-off, providing a double boost to manager Jurgen Klopp ahead of the new season.

Editors' Picks What did Van Dijk say?

Writing on Twitter after the game, Van Dijk said: “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!”

Speaking about the duo's return, manager Jurgen Klopp said: "It was a nice feeling. Started immediately well and usually we all know that the fourth goal is a clear situation which saw and defend well. But that's it.

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

What happened against Hertha?

Santiago Ascacibar and Suat Serdar's strikes put Hertha 2-0 ahead early on at the Tivoli Stadion, only for Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino to bring the Premier League side level before the break.

Substitute Stevan Jovetic restored Hertha’s lead shortly before Van Dijk and Gomez came onto the field in the 68th minute. The former Manchester City striker then scored his second and Hertha’s fourth with ten minutes remaining, turning sharply away from Van Dijk and Andy Robertson to leave both players on the floor before calmly finishing beyond goalkeeper Adrian.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pulled a goal back late on but could not prevent the defeat, though the return of Van Dijk and Gomez is likely to be the main takeaway from the game for Reds fans.

The bigger picture

Liverpool’s hopes of defending their Premier League title suffered a double blow in the space of just a few weeks last autumn, with Van Dijk suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Merseyside rivals Everton in October, before Gomez picked up a knee tendon injury on international duty with England just a few weeks later.

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That left a huge hole at the heart of the Reds defence for the remainder of the campaign and likely played a role in their failure to keep their grip on the Premier League trophy.

It has been a long nine months, but to see both players back on the pitch will be a timely boost for Jurgen Klopp as he prepares his side for another title shot this term.

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Van Dijk and Gomez have Klopp smiling despite Hertha defeat

Goal.com - 6 hours 40 min ago
Van Dijk and Gomez return for Liverpool as Keita offers Klopp hope for new Premier League season | Goal.com

Liverpool Correspondent

Last Updated4 hours ago

20:29Jul 29, 2021Comments

Goal/Getty

The Reds were beaten 4-3 by Hertha Berlin in a pre-season friendly in Austria on Thursday, but there were plenty of positives to be taken...

Liverpool continued their preparations for the new Premier League season with an entertaining 4-3 friendly defeat to Hertha Berlin in Austria.

The Reds found themselves 2-0 down in the first half as goals from Santiago Ascacibar and Suat Serdar, the latter a brilliant effort, gave the Bundesliga side the advantage,

It was all square by half-time though, as first Sadio Mane pulled one back after good work from Kostas Tsimikas, and then Naby Keita and Mo Salah combined to set up Takumi Minamino for a superb equaliser. 

Editors' Picks

Hertha, though, secured the win thanks to two second-half goals from substitute Stevan Jovetic, despite Liverpool dominating the bulk of the second period. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pulled one back late on but it proved just a consolation as the Reds slipped to their first loss of the summer.

Jurgen Klopp was able to welcome back Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez for the final 20 minutes, the defenders making their first appearances since October and November respectively. 

There were also first pre-season outings for Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota, with the likes of Salah, Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold playing 60 minutes for the first time this summer.

Here are a few things Goal noticed from Thursday’s game...

The Big Man is back….

Virgil van Dijk’s smile said it all.

The Big Man is back.

After nine months, after 285 days and 285 nights, the Dutchman returned to action for Liverpool as a second-half substitute.

Van Dijk managed 21 minutes, replacing Nat Phillips to huge cheers from the 11,000 fans inside Tirol’s Tivoli Stadium.

What a sight for Reds fans. What a sight for his team-mates, and for Jurgen Klopp. How they have missed the 29-year-old, and what a difference he will make to their chances of success this season.

Van Dijk wasn’t overly stretched in his time on the field here, though he was unable to prevent Jovetic making it 4-2 after the former Manchester City striker had got in behind 11 minutes from time. Jovetic, in fairness, took the chance expertly.

How reassuring, though, to see Van Dijk there, cajoling his team-mates, passing the ball simply and venturing up for set-pieces. He played his part in Oxlade-Chamberlain's goal with a towerng back-post header.

Don’t worry about rustiness; the sharpness, the confidence, the consistency, that will come with time.

It’s been too long. Welcome back, Virgil. Your team has missed you.

...and so is his mate

And there was more good news for Klopp on the centre-back front, with Joe Gomez also making his long-awaited return from injury alongside his great friend.

Gomez has been absent since November after rupturing a knee tendon on international duty with England but, like Van Dijk, has diligently worked his way back to full fitness over the past eight months.

It hasn’t been easy for the 23-year-old, who has had more than his share of bad luck in recent years, but he and Van Dijk have pushed each other through the final stage of their rehabilitation, and though bigger and tougher tests lie in wait, this was a huge step forward for both.

With Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip well settled, and with Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams all the better for their experiences last season, suddenly Liverpool’s defence is looking well-stocked heading into the new campaign.

Keita offers hope, but can he keep it up?

If Naby Keita is to establish himself as a key player for Liverpool, then he will need to do it soon.

This is the Guinea midfielder’s fourth season with the Reds, but his returns have been dwindling since that much-anticipated move from Leipzig.

Keita made 33 appearances in his first year, 27 in his second and only 16 last term. His last competitive outing, against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final in April, ended with him being substituted before half-time for ‘tactical reasons’.

He looked sharp in Friday’s win over Mainz in Grodig, illuminating proceedings with his nifty footwork and his desire to drive forward with and without the ball.

And he was similarly bright here, neat with his touches and sharp with his pressing.

It was that pressing which led to Liverpool’s second goal, just before half-time. Keita, alert and aggressive, won the ball back high in the Hertha half, and then had the quality to feed Salah, whose brilliant backheel was finished by Minamino. 

Klopp will have enjoyed that, but he knows the real challenge with Keita is to come. If he can stay fit, Liverpool have a huge asset on their hands.

It’s the size of the ‘if’ which will concern the manager.

Naby Keita Liverpool 2020-21

Forwards give Klopp reason for cheer

It has been a gruelling three weeks for Liverpool’s players over in Austria, with double sessions the norm as Klopp looks to prepare them for the rigours of the upcoming campaign.

So it will have pleased the manager, for sure, to see several of his attacking players looking as sharp as they did here.

Mane got his second goal of pre-season and might have had a hat-trick, seeing two close-range headers saved by the Hertha goalkeeper. 

Salah, too, looked dangerous, superbly creating a goal for Minamino and bristling with intent throughout his hour on the field.

Minamino will take confidence from his goal, while there was promise in the form of Curtis Jones and, again, the teenage duo of Harvey Elliott and Kaide Gordon. 

Gordon, 16, might have had a couple of goals himself after coming on for a lively half-hour cameo. The former Derby man is certainly one to keep an eye on in the future.

Good, too, to see Jota back and bringing his usual blend of positivity, desire and direct running. The same goes for Robertson, who looks like he hasn’t missed a beat during his summer break, and for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who took his goal in fine style late on.

Respects paid to a true fighter

There was heartbreaking news this week with the passing of Reds supporter Andrew Devine at the age of 55.

Andrew was just 22 when he suffered life-changing injuries at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989. 

Since that fateful day, in which 96 fellow Reds fans lost their lives and countless others had theirs changed forever, Andrew, who was confined to a wheelchair and required round-the-clock care, continued to attend matches at Anfield whenever possible.

When Liverpool won the Champions League in 2019, their bus tour of the city ended at Andrew’s family home in Mossley Hill, as Jurgen Klopp and his players paid tribute to one of life’s great fighters.

On Thursday, Liverpool’s squad held a 97-second silence ahead of their training session in Tirol. Later, the players wore black armbands in Andrew’s memory during the game with Hertha.

“We have lost an incredible person,” said Klopp. “Someone who showed us all what it is to fight and who refused to give in even when the expectation was that he could fight no more.

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“We will not forget Andrew.”

Thirty-two years on, the effects of Hillsborough continue to be felt. 

Rest in peace Andrew. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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Gerrard responds to renewed talk of replacing Klopp

Goal.com - 6 hours 40 min ago
Rangers boss Gerrard responds to renewed talk of replacing Klopp at Liverpool | Goal.com

Chris Burton

Last Updated12 hours ago

12:37Jul 29, 2021Comments

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The Reds legend has made no secret of the fact that he would like to return to Anfield at some stage, but that day remains a long way off

Steven Gerrard maintains that a return to Liverpool does not form part of his immediate future plans, with the Reds legend fully committed to a title-winning post at Scottish giants Rangers.

The former England captain continues to be linked with a homecoming at Anfield, with his contract at Ibrox mirroring that of Jurgen Klopp at Anfield - with both men tied to terms through to 2024.

It continues to be suggested that Gerrard will be offered the chance to succeed a Premier League and Champions League-winning coach in familiar surroundings, but he is giving no thought to that at present.

Editors' Picks What has been said?

Quizzed again on the Liverpool rumours by ESPN, Gerrard has said: "I can't control any media speculation about my position.

"I don't welcome it, I don't add to it. All I do is focus on the job I have here and I'm very flattered and grateful for the position.

"I'm very happy here, I've said it on numerous occasions, it's a huge club, I'm settled, I'm happy and I can continue to develop and keep trying to push this team forward."

How has Gerrard fared at Rangers?

Steven Gerrard Rangers 2020-21

The 41-year-old cut his coaching teeth within the academy ranks at Liverpool, before heading out on his own to take the reins at Rangers in 2018.

An immediate impact was made in Glasgow, with impressive progress culminating in a long-awaited Scottish Premiership title triumph in 2020-21.

Gerrard has overseen 112 wins from his 170 games in charge of the Gers, with only 21 defeats suffered, but he remains aware of the need to keep raising the bar.

He added: "I think at Rangers you are always trying to reset the remit.

"Since I first came here, we have completed a lot of the challenges that were set for me, my staff and the players, but the goalposts always move at a club that has experienced the kind of success that Rangers have.

"We've had incredible success, we made history last year, but it's about parking that up now and looking to build on that.

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"I think this job comes with huge pressure every single season, no matter whether it is a success. There are always things to improve on, you always reset and get ready to go again. The pressure never changes, I don't feel under any other pressure than I did on day one really.

"My job every day comes with that responsibility to try to make this club better, and keep striving for success. We've got targets now set for the end of the season and that is to try to be as dominant as we can and get as much silverware we can to add to last year."

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Liverpool analysis - Van Dijk gets new target as Keita sends timely reminder

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