Jurgen Klopp has suggested that Liverpool will handle returning sidelined stars Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez carefully in the coming weeks.
The exact defensive partnership the Reds will name for their first league match of the upcoming campaign remains unclear, as the club is set to closely monitor its centre-halves’ fitness levels throughout pre-season.
“No, they aren’t [at the same level as the others], but it’s different,” the former Dortmund boss told liverpoolfc.com.
“Let’s start with: all four look really good, I have to say. Look really good.
“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.”
Though there will be a certain degree of caution exercised with the four stars, it would appear that not all are equal in their respective recovery efforts.
“Joel looks good, absolutely, he is the closest probably to normal training and then we will see when we get him started for playing,” Klopp added.
“Trent was a serious enough injury but now not a major one, I would say. 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.”
With Matip appearing the “closest” to a return out of the club’s batch of centre-backs, it would appear most likely at this point that we could favour a duo of the Cameroonian and potentially either Nat Phillips or new boy Ibrahima Konate for the first league clash with Norwich.
That’s looking far ahead in the future, of course, with much potentially changing in the next few weeks.
At the very least it’s promising that a number of key stars haven’t endured any serious bumps in the road to recovery, with the likes of Van Dijk and Trent likely set to play crucial roles once again in any success we experience in the next campaign.