Jurgen Klopp says Virgil Van Dijk may find derby injury ‘difficult to forget’

Liverpool v Arsenal – Premier League – Anfield
(Image credit: Peter Byrne)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits it may be difficult for Virgil Van Dijk to forget what happened to him on his last visit to Goodison Park for a Merseyside derby.

Just over 13 months ago the Holland captain lasted just 11 minutes before an unpunished reckless challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and prematurely ended his season in mid-October.

The Dutchman returned to full fitness in time to start this season and while he may not be back to his imperious best Klopp does not feel that form is too far away.

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford tackles Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk

Virgil Van Dijk’s season was ended by a challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

But as the centre-back prepares to re-enter the white-hot atmosphere of a derby on enemy territory again Klopp accepts it is only natural for the player to have some flashbacks.

“We are human beings so it is probably difficult to forget and ignore something like that of course, but the situation was a situation that can always happen in football,” said the Liverpool manager.

“It is a situation which should not happen in football. It doesn’t happen very often, I can’t remember since then it happening in one game.

“It is unlucky when a player gets injured like that. It should have been dealt with differently but that’s not important any more.

“But Virgil is very experienced and he has now these kind of situations constantly since he was back where he has always dealt with all these kind of things, where he has to be completely free of all things he could have in his mind because of one issue in the past.

“So yeah, it might be more different because it is the same place but apart from that it is just a football game.”

The focus is all on the other side of Stanley Park where former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez heads into his first derby as Everton manager on the back of seven matches without a win.

Klopp, however, is keen to portray the game as just another fixture.

“There are special things around derbies but first and foremost it is a football game,” he added.

“We know what our supporters want and we try to fulfil their dreams and wishes.

“Derby games are more in focus but from our point it is a football game which we have to approach like a normal one.

“There are three points at stake and we will try to get them. It is nothing to do with the special situation of their coach.

“The other thing (on unhappy fans) is nothing new in football.

Rafael Benitez shakes hands with Jurgen Klopp

LIverpool managers past and present Rafael Benitez and Jurgen Klopp will meet in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“I watched the Brentford v Everton game but switched off at the final whistle so not exactly sure what happened but these things happen when you don’t exactly have the right results.”

Their fractious 2-2 draw in October 2020 saw Klopp also lose midfielder Thiago Alcantara to a knee injury for almost three months after Richarlison was red-carded for an over-the-top-challenge.

Asked about the need to keep a cool head he added: “It was long ago.

“It is always important in football. We play football. We are still an emotional team but you have to use the emotion in the right way and that’s the plan.”

Liverpool later announced that former Brazil goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel – a World Cup winner in 1994 – had joined the coaching staff, the 55-year-old linking up with John Achterberg and Jack Robinson to work with the Reds’ stoppers.

Klopp told liverpoolfc.com: “The idea is that, in our opinion, we have now in a lot of positions the best we can imagine.

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“In terms of goalkeepers, it means we have Alisson Becker, who for us is the best goalie in the world. We have Caoimhin Kelleher, who we really think is an exceptional, exceptional player. We have Adrian, who has shown his qualities since he arrived here. Then we have Marcelo Pitaluga, then we have Harvey Davies, so we have five goalies in different age groups, which is great but we want to have even more of these guys.

“We want to build kind of our own philosophy in goalkeeping because we all agree it’s its own game, so that’s why we wanted to have another completely different view on it. We spoke to Ali because two of the best goalies in the world are Brazilians and so we found a solution with bringing in Taffarel as a really nice addition to our whole coaching staff. We really think it can give us just a different view again, to look at different things.

“We really want to really be a proper goalkeeping school in world football and so that’s why we’re bringing in a third very, very experienced goalkeeper coach.”

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