A surprise and a big blow – Virgil van Dijk set for ‘more than a month’ out

A surprise and a big blow – Virgil van Dijk set for ‘more than a month’ out

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is looking forward to new signing Cody Gakpo making his mark on the team as he prepares to face the next month without fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk.

The club’s £38million forward is set for his debut in the FA Cup third-round tie against Wolves after joining from PSV Eindhoven, but the excitement of welcoming the new arrival has been tempered by the loss of their influential centre-back for several weeks.

Van Dijk would not have featured against Wolves but is now likely to miss crucial Premier League matches against Brighton and Chelsea, plus Wolves again. He also faces a race to be fit for the Merseyside derby on February 13 and, more significantly, the Champions League last-16 first leg at home to Real Madrid the following week.

With Liverpool facing a battle to reach the top four after Tuesday’s defeat to Brentford, in which Van Dijk sustained his injury, the absence of the defender could have major implications.

“It is a surprise for us and obviously a big blow. The diagnosis was pretty harsh and we talk about weeks, more than a month, but I hope it goes quick,” said Klopp.

“He never had an issue with muscles before and it just now happened. It was one sprint too much in that moment.”

Van Dijk’s lay-off has tempered the anticipation surrounding the first appearance of Gakpo, the exciting forward who has been in superb form this season.

The 23-year-old contributed 13 goals and 14 assists for his former club and also scored in each of the Netherlands’ three World Cup group matches, with Liverpool swooping for one of Europe’s hottest properties in order to fend off interest from the likes of Manchester United.

A year ago forward Luis Diaz joined from Porto and re-energised Liverpool’s season and Klopp is confident Gakpo can also hit the ground running, especially with injuries to Diaz, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino.

“I’m very positive about him, (although) I’m not sure it’s helpful to compare with Diaz’s impact – that was really special to be honest,” added Klopp.

“We had difficulties as well injury-wise (last year) so he was extremely helpful. That’s how it will be in this moment as well.

“Cody gets the same amount of time like each player. You have to settle in offensively, it’s not that easy. He comes in from a different league. That’s always difficult.

Cody Gakpo
Cody Gakpo is set to make his Liverpool debut (Nick Potts/PA).

“It was for Lucho (Diaz) as well, but you don’t have to compare them. We expect a positive impact, definitely.

“Cody’s in for two full training days (and) it’s a joy to watch to be honest.

“Of course with our situation, injuries to the strikers as well, it’s really nice to have a player who is pretty natural in a lot of things in the offensive part of the game and knows where the goal stands.

“He is obviously full of joy, enjoying each second in the moment. That is very good. He looks really good, really promising.“

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is training again after a concussion injury, but fellow midfielder James Milner (hamstring) is still missing.

Fans’ groups have written to chief executive Billy Hogan asking him to demand UEFA gives the club its full allocation for March’s Champions League last-16 second leg tie at Real Madrid.

The Bernabeu is still undergoing renovation and as a result the number of tickets made available to visiting fans is a reduced 1,800, with just four wheelchair bays.

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“We have been left with no alternative other than to write to CEO Billy Hogan asking for extra bays. It is staggering that Madrid has only allocated us 4 wheelchair bays, to compound matters these are with the home fans,” said a LDSA statement on Twitter.

Spirit of Shankly added: “We’ve learnt allocation for the Madrid game in March is to stay at 1800 with only 4 wheelchair bays.

“This breaches UEFA regulations that state it must be a minimum five percent (in this case 3000-3500).

“We, @LiverpoolDSA + @FansEurope have asked LFC to go back to UEFA + demand an increase.”