Virgil van Dijk: Liverpool defender on return after ‘mentally tough’ injury

Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk played a key role in Liverpool keeping a clean sheet in their Premier League opener at Norwich

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk feels his first Premier League appearance since last October was a big step towards putting behind him a “mentally tough” 10 months out through injury.

“It’s a good start. Now we have time to recover for next week,” Van Dijk said.

“To be back out there helping the boys, I hope to continue that. I need games – the manager knows it, I know it.”

He added: “In the end 3-0 sounds comfortable but at times, especially at the end, we were making it difficult for ourselves. Maybe that’s fatigue, maybe we can do better – we’ll have a look at it.”

Van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury in a clash with Jordan Pickford during a 2-2 draw with Everton on 17 October last year and admitted he found it difficult having to watch as Liverpool’s title defence faltered.

“Mentally it’s tough,” Van Dijk told Sky Sports. “One day you’re fully fit, the next you’re full of medication and in pain.

“Everyone has their opinion [on what happened] and you read those things because you have nothing to do! We had more injuries in key positions so couldn’t play our game, the way we want to play, with high pressure.

“The guys did a fantastic job to come through it. Hopefully we can build on it and stay fit because we can’t take that for granted either.”

Liverpool finished third in the Premier League last season, 17 points behind champions Manchester City, but rallied late on to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

They will be optimistic of providing a closer challenge this season, with their injured defenders returning and their attacking players looking at their best against Norwich.

Mohamed Salah scored twice and also provided assists for Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino at Carrow Road.

Likely title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United both won on Saturday while Manchester City get their defence under way against Tottenham on Sunday [16:30 BST].

“It’s exciting to see the Premier League like this, all the players coming back, and I enjoy it,” added Van Dijk.

“Thinking about our own team, if we stay fit, we have a good chance to be up there. To play against world-class strikers again and world-class teams, and when you can’t predict where you will be at the end of the season, it’s exciting.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was delighted with his side’s start as they look to replicate their title-winning campaign of 2019-20.

“Pretty much as good as it gets,” the German said.

“What you need and what you go for is the result. The result depends on the performance and I thought we were absolutely good enough to win.

“It was a very professional performance. I don’t need a 25-minute sensational spell and we lose the game. An away game, against a newly promoted team, in a packed stadium for the first time, they [fans] celebrate everything so I am really happy with how we play.”

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