Van Dijk to increase workload in comeback for Liverpool

National Sports

EVIAN, France (AP)Liverpool center-back Virgil van Dijk is ”ready to crack on” with more minutes in the team’s next preseason match as he returns from knee surgery, though it’s unclear if he’ll be ready for the start of the new season.

Liverpool visits Norwich for the Aug. 14 season opener but Van Dijk said he’s just focused on increasing his workload Thursday in a friendly against Bologna at the Premier League team’s training camp in Evian, France.

Van Dijk reported no setbacks after playing 20 minutes against Hertha Berlin last Thursday.

”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,” the Netherlands international told club media. ”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.”

Van Dijk and Joe Gomez, who also is returning from injury, expect to play 30 minutes or more against the Serie A club on Thursday. Both defenders played 20 minutes against Hertha.

”I’ve heard we’ll play at least 30 minutes, but it could be maybe longer, and then we just build it up,” Van Dijk said. ”We have another friendly which I am looking forward to at Anfield, of course, at the weekend or on Monday, one of the two, so I will get more minutes then if things go well. Then the league will start. At the end of the day, it’s all about what the manager wants and we will see how it progresses.”

Liverpool hosts Athletic Bilbao in a friendly at Anfield on Sunday.

Van Dijk underwent surgery on his right knee after after damaging ligaments in a challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a Premier League game Oct. 17.

The defender missed the European Championship campaign and it’s unclear if he will participate when the Netherlands resumes World Cup qualifiers. The Dutch face Norway, Montenegro and Turkey in early September.

Liverpool’s Brazilian trio of goalkeeper Alisson Becker, midfielder Fabinho and forward Roberto Firmino are expected to play on Thursday, manager Jurgen Klopp said.

On Wednesday, Fabinho signed a long-term contract extension with the club.

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