Liverpool duo Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain doubts for start of season

Jurgen Klopp does not expect long-term absentees Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez to return for next Thursday's pre-season friendly against Hertha Berlin in Austria.

Van Dijk and Gomez both suffered serious knee injuries in the first half of the 2020/21 campaign, which left Klopp with a defensive crisis at Anfield.

The absence of his first-choice centre-back duo derailed their title defence, with Jordan Henderson and Fabinho having to fill in as makeshift defenders on occasion.

The two stars are finally edging closer to their eagerly-awaited returns, having completed lengthy rehabilitation on their ACL problems over the past 10 months.

However, Klopp admits next week's friendly against Hertha might come too early for them, casting doubt over their chances of being match fit in time for the new Premier League season.

When asked if Van Dijk and Gomez could return, he said: "It would still be a surprise, unfortunately. But they look really good.

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"Look, I think, they do everything, they play football, we keep them in training, we do the things we can do, they don’t too much and stuff like this.

"We just have to be patient – we prepare for a full season, not for a pre-season game. I will not risk it for a game here, so we have to see.

"We have a lot of games still coming, pre-season games, but I don’t see them being involved for the next one."

Klopp watched his side pick up a 1-0 victory in their latest pre-season outing against former club Mainz on Friday.

Lucas Kilian's own goal four minutes from time handed them the win, and Klopp was happy with what he saw.

He said: "You always have to consider what you did the day before. We had a double session [Thursday], trained this morning, and this is exactly what you need. Good intensive stuff, and try to play the best football you can. It's pre-season.

"I am happy about a lot of situations I saw. First half I saw some really good football, we passed the ball quite quickly against a good organised side, a good defending side. It was far away from being perfect, but it is absolutely OK.

"The kids forced for a result in the second half, and they got it, so I'm happy about that."

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