If Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s strategy for the international break is to cross his fingers, his view on Virgil van Dijk may be different.
If Jurgen Klopp’s approach for the international break is to cross his fingers and hold his breath, his stance on Virgil van Dijk may be in striking contrast.
The Liverpool manager, like any other club manager, will no doubt spend the international break praying his players return in good health and relatively underworked for their respective countries.
In the case of his captain, Klopp may be relieved to see Van Dijk get some minutes for the Netherlands in recent days. The Reds captain led the team to a 3-0 win against Greece six days ago before helping them defeat Ireland 2-1 at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday night.
It bumped up the Dutchman’s contribution to over 180 minutes of football over the break, which, although not generally a welcome occurrence for Klopp, has proven to be a valuable byproduct of this time’s hiatus in Premier League fixtures.
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Van Dijk will miss nearly a month of Premier League action after being dismissed shortly before the half-hour mark of the last-gasp triumph at Newcastle United on August 27 and having his subsequent punishment extended to two games for his reaction.
It means that by the time he is ready to return, Liverpool will have played more than 210 minutes without him, which is not ideal for a new captain trying to adjust to his new responsibilities.
The No.4 sat on the bench during the 3-0 win over Aston Villa before the break and will be unavailable to Klopp again when the Reds visit Wolves on September 16. And, with a Europa League campaign starting at LASK nearly a week later, the manager is unlikely to risk his captain in Austria, as he intends to make full use of his squad in Group E’s early stages.
With the visit of West Ham United on September 24 circled on Van Dijk’s calendar, the game-time for Ronald Koeman’s Dutch team will be viewed as a welcome element by staff at the AXA Centre, especially given Ibrahima Konate has been sidelined with an injury since the win over Bournemouth last month.
With Trent Alexander-Arnold also out with a hamstring injury, Liverpool can’t afford to have too many defensive players out of form or fitness, so from Klopp’s perspective, the international break has kept Van Dijk sharp for the return of domestic action later this month. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Reds.