Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says Virgil van Dijk “looks absolutely ready” to make his return from injury against Newcastle United this weekend.
Netherlands international Van Dijk has not played for Liverpool since sustaining a hamstring injury during the 3-1 loss to Brentford on January 2.
The 31-year-old’s injury proved to be worse than initially feared, and he spent six weeks out of action prior to returning to the substitutes’ bench for Monday’s 2-0 win over Everton.
Having been an unused substitute in the Merseyside derby, Klopp is ready to use Van Dijk against Newcastle after stepping up his recovery on the training ground this week.
Asked if he is in contention to start Saturday’s game at St James’ Park, Klopp said: “I think so. Yesterday he looked absolutely ready.
“I think [on Friday] he will look the same, and we will then make a decision.”
.@VirgilvDijk could return to Liverpool’s starting line-up on Saturday for the encounter at Newcastle United, Jürgen Klopp confirmed:
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 17, 2023
Van Dijk’s return is a major boost for Liverpool, who are without fellow centre-back Ibrahima Konate ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg with Real Madrid.
Luis Diaz and Thiago Alcantara remain sidelined for Liverpool, while Klopp confirmed young defender Calvin Ramsay is out for the season after undergoing surgery.
“Even if he could come back a bit earlier, it makes no sense,” Klopp said of highly rated Ramsay, who has made two senior appearances since joining from Aberdeen.
“We’ve had to build him up physically, so he can have a new start [next season] when we go again. He’s a great talent, a real talent who’s had the most unlucky start possible.”
Liverpool also welcomed Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota back from injury earlier this week to bolster their options ahead of travelling to Newcastle in a big Premier League game.
The Reds can close the gap on their fourth-placed opponents to six points with a game in hand should they win.
However, Newcastle have lost just once in the league all season – to a 98th-minute Liverpool goal in August’s reverse fixture – and boast the best defensive record in the division.
“This is a massive game. If you want to reach something this season, we have to chase everybody, especially those who are ahead of us in the table,” Klopp said.
“It will never be easy, but we have to try. It’ll be tough; Newcastle are the best defence in the league, lost just once to us, we needed a late goal.
“They are very consistent and that is the first step to success.
“Eddie Howe has done an exceptional job, absolutely exceptional. The financial possibilities they have, or will have, are exceptional, but it is not because of that, not at all.
“He arrived in a difficult situation, they stayed comfortably in the league and now the team is unrecognisable. He’s turned them around, and they are a proper threat.”
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