Liverpool face Newcastle United on Saturday (February 17), and manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed that Virgil van Dijk is fit to start. The Dutch defender has been out of action since early January with a hamstring injury.
Van Dijk was on the bench for the Reds’ 2-0 Merseyside derby win over Everton on Monday (February 13). Klopp told reporters ahead of the clash with the Magpies (via Liverpool Echo):
“Yesterday (in training), he (Van Dijk) looked absolutely ready.”
“I think so…” ⏳
Will Virgil van Dijk start against Newcastle? 🔴🔙 pic.twitter.com/tM4Md1Q4SL
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 17, 2023
The Merseysiders are in stark need of a positive result against Newcastle, as their hopes of a top-four finish are in jeopardy. They trail the fourth-placed Magpies by nine points in ninth place.
Van Dijk’s return is a welcome boost for Liverpool, as the Dutchman has been one of the Premier League’s top defenders over the years. He has featured 24 times across competitions this season, providing two assists and helping the Reds keep eight clean sheets. In his absence, Klopp’s side have suffered two defeats and one draw in the league. They also exited the FA Cup against Brighton & Hove Albion.
The Reds will need to be at the top of their game defensively to deal with the high-flying Newcastle side. Eddie Howe’s men are in pole position to secure UEFA Champions League qualification. The Tyneside giants have lost just once in the league this season.
Cody Gakpo reacts to scoring first Liverpool goal by revealing conversation with Van Dijk
Liverpool bounced back from a disappointing 3-0 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 4 with a convincing 2-0 win against Everton at Anfield on Monday night.
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring after comical goalkeeping from Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. However, Reds fans were delighted to see Gakpo bag his first goal for the club in the second half.
The Dutch attacker had gone 546 minutes without netting for his new side. He was one of Europe’s most in-form forwards at PSV Eindhoven before his January move to Anfield. Gakpo reacted to his first goal for the Reds, touching on a conversation he had with his compatriot Van Dijk (via the Mirror):
“Virgil (van Dijk) told me all about the derby and said it’s going to be a big fight. He also remind me he scored his first goal against Everton – so it was an amazing moment for the team, and for me.”
Van Dijk: “I did not need to convince Cody Gakpo. He’s good player, a good boy, we have to give him time and I am very sure the Liverpool fans will give him time”, told Sky 🔴🇳🇱 #LFC
“It’s gonna be my 5th anniversary here. I am very proud to play for this beautiful club”. pic.twitter.com/S37D4qhjkW
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 30, 2022
Van Dijk scored a dramatic late winner on his Reds debut in a 2-1 win over Everton in 2018. He has since become a club legend, making over 200 appearances and winning the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.