Virgil van Dijk says he is “ready to crack on” at Liverpool after making his return from a nine-month injury lay-off.
Both Van Dijk and Joe Gomez returned following lengthy spells out in Liverpool’s pre-season friendly against Hertha Berlin last week.
Van Dijk, 30, has been out for nine months after suffering anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while Gomez has been recovering from a knee injury.
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Reflecting on his return, Van Dijk told the Liverpool club website: “You’ve been visualising so many times yourself playing a game again and just to be out there again. There are obviously plenty of things to improve still and to get back to full fitness, but to get out there again gave me so much confidence.
“I am just ready to crack on, to push on again. That’s what I want to do, so I just keep going and the next one is on Thursday.”
Liverpool, who finished third in the Premier League last season, face Bologna on Thursday before finishing their pre-season with games against Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna.
They start their league campaign against newly-promoted Norwich on August 14.
“It’s crazy to think that you are going to be top again when you didn’t play a professional game or a high-level game for nine months,” added Van Dijk.
“So you just want to have repetition, you want to continue, keep repeating things. I know for a fact that training on your own can’t replicate training with the group, but training with the group can’t replicate what is going on in a game.
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“So you need those games. I am taking it all in, it’s tough and there will be difficult moments, but that’s something I take in.”
Van Dijk and Gomez both made their return to action at the same time in the friendly against Hertha.
Van Dijk said it was a “special” moment as the pair shared a hug on the sideline before playing.
“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.”
On his fitness, Van Dijk added: “I’m doing well, I’m doing well. It’s obviously been a tough pre-season, coming back from such a long time to be playing and training with the boys again is a big thing. It’s been tough at times, but we try to manage everything with Andreas Schlumberger [ head of recovery and performance], who is in close contact with me and Joe [Gomez]. We’re still getting managed, but we’re doing very well.”
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